The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 13

Week 13 is about minding your words. Read the challenge here.

Being mindful and intentional about the words we speak, especially to our children, is so very important, and also so very difficult. At least for me. I’ve had this challenge tucked away in the back of my head for awhile now, but even though I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to “mind my words,” I still find myself slipping up so often.

If you read the challenge (click the link above), you’ll notice that Shawn asks, “When was the last time you said something you wish you hadn’t?” Um… how about tonight at dinner when Stephen spilled an entire cup of milk all over the table and the just-cleaned floor because he was trying to take a drink while we were praying? I won’t lie — I yelled. I was harsh, much too harsh. He cried. I grumbled while mopping up the spilled milk that my soup would be cold by the time I got to eat it.

I yell a lot as a parent. More than I thought I would. More than I want to. I don’t like being a yelling mom, but all serious efforts to kick this habit have been met with epic failure. I’ll commit to not yelling, and I’ll do really well for a day or two, and then all of a sudden, BAM! Something will happen and I’ll lose control and start yelling. Like tonight.

Several months ago, I discovered a blog called The Orange Rhino. The blogger is a mom who challenged herself to go 365 days without yelling at her kids. She is currently on day 482. Wow! I am simultaneously impressed, inspired, and incredulous. Is it really possible to not yell at one’s children AT ALL? Apparently so — this woman at least has done it for well over a year now! And her website is chock-full of helpful advice and tips on curbing yelling — from a real mom with real children (4 boys!), not just some “expert” with a lot of letters after his name.

week13Shifting gears slightly, but still in the vein of minding your words… one of the things I did for Rusty this year for his 40th birthday was compile a “Rusty in 40 Words” list. I tried to use words that really captured the essence of Rusty — who he is, not what he does. It seems a simple exercise, and it is, but it was actually harder to come up with the list than I thought it would be when I began. I had to be selective and mindful (there’s that word again) since I was only allowed 40 words! I’m sharing a photo of the list here as a positive example of what “minding your words” can mean.

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The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 3

Week 3 is about setting intentions. Read the entire post here.

This post really resonated with me. I used to be a more planned out, intentional person. These days, my life feels so haphazard, last minute, and thrown together. Part of it is probably due to having 3 lively little boys constantly underfoot; and all the moving around we’ve done over the last several years certainly hasn’t helped any. I remember a time in my life when I treated Sunday afternoons as my time to plan ahead for the rest of the week. I would go over my calendar (appointments, school assignments, church activities, etc.), discuss any logistical details with Rusty, plan my menu and make my shopping list, make a “to do” list, pay bills and check our bank account, and generally just try to mentally prepare myself for the week ahead.

It has been years since I was really in the habit of setting aside time to focus and plan for the week in front of me. In some ways, I guess I need this time less since I’m not stretched quite as thin as I was when I was working 2 jobs, taking graduate level classes, and trying to be a youth minister’s wife (a 3rd job, really, although it didn’t pay anything). But maybe I do need this time just as much now as I did back then. As a stay-at-home mom, with very few external motivators on my day, I find myself struggling with time management. An intentional time of planning ahead each week might really help with that.

But, although setting aside time to plan ahead is good, the idea behind setting intentions is more about setting a tone, guiding your behavior, and focusing on the important things than on working out the logistical details of your life. If you read Shawn’s post, you’ll find that she advises weekly intentions, daily intentions, and weekend intentions. All day today, I’ve been thinking about my intention for this week — Rusty is gone, I’ll be home with the boys most all week. Although I have help around the house during the day, I’m on my own in the evenings, and the bathtime/bedtime routine usually proves to be my own personal Waterloo. When Rusty left on Saturday morning, I was in a bad mood. I was grumpy and feeling sorry for myself. And then I realized, I can choose my response to this week. I can be miserable and make my kids miserable in the process — or I can choose to make the make the best of our situation and tweek3 (3)ry to have fun.

And so, my weekly intention this week is to Enjoy My Kids. That’s it — just enjoy them. Enjoy learning and discovering with them. Enjoy playing with them. Enjoy cuddling and snuggling with them. Enjoy reading to them. Enjoy talking to them. The When Dad’s Away Activity Jar made it’s reappearance yesterday, and today Stephen chose “indoor cookout.” Since it was Superbowl Sunday, I put the game on the TV, built a fire in the fireplace (yes, I finally managed to get a fire going, Rusty, you would have been proud!), and we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire for dinner.

week3 (1)week3 (2)Each day this week, we will do something from the jar. I even added a few new activities like “make our own personal pizzas,” “game night,” and “Mario Kart tournament.”

My daily intentions will change each day, but I want to try to focus on one small goal or project each day this week to see if I can make some headway on some of the things that I have been procrastinating on lately. This afternoon, I forced myself to spend 15 minutes just tidying up in our bedroom. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, the pile of clothes at the foot of the bed is now put away! Baby steps, people, baby steps.

And finally, my weekend intention is to Celebrate! My vivacious, red-headed niece is turning five tomorrow and having her birthday party on Friday, and we will all be going and then spending the night afterwards. And then Rusty arrives home on Saturday evening. If we survive the week, and I am still sane, then clearly, we will have much to celebrate!

Setting intentions — it’s simple, it’s easy, and it gives focus and direction to your day, your week, your weekend.

Taking the Stay Awake Challenge

When I first started this little experiment a month ago, I really wasn’t sure the direction it would take. I didn’t want to assign myself a topic to write about for the entire year because I thought that would be too restrictive. I didn’t want to follow a series of writing prompts for the same reason. I wanted the freedom to follow my heart in choosing what to write about each day, and while I enjoy that freedom for the most part, there are also days when I sit down to write and have no idea what I’m going to write about.

But a few weeks ago, I discovered the Stay Awake Challenge on Awesomely Awake, one of the blogs I read. You can go read all the details about the challenge here and join in if you would like. Basically, it is a once-a-week thing. (I can do a prompt once a week… that still leaves six days for free-writing.) Each week, a writing prompt is posted along with some photography tips and suggestions. (Cool! Combines two things I want to get better at this year!) But beyond that, I love the whole idea of the challenge, which is to be mindful, to be present, in short to stay awake!

I have been ruminating a lot on the concept of choosing a word or a theme for my life for the year. There is a website, My One Word, and even a book by the same name, which detail the process of choosing your word and then living it for the year. I am intrigued. Since I have foregone New Year’s resolutions for several years now, this seems a viable alternative that would still give my life focus and direction.

And I already know what I want my word to be for 2013: Be Present (Yes, I know, it’s really two words. Get over it.)

I spend a lot of time either feeling sad and regretful and guilty about the past or worried and fearful about the future. I feel like I’m missing a lot of my life right now because I’m not fully present in it. It’s like living underwater. I look at my kids and I think, I want to be here for them, I want to enjoy them right now, at whatever both-frustrating-and-delightful stage they happen to be in. I don’t want to look back when they’re 18 and realize, I missed it. I missed it all because I wasn’t fully present in the days as they were happening. I want to wake up and really experience my life, the joy and the pain together, because I think I’m starting to realize that you can’t anesthetize yourself against the one and still expect to feel the other.

So. Be Present. My word (okay, two) for 2013. And it fits pretty well with the Stay Awake Challenge, which is one reason I decided to give it a go. Since I’m a little late to the party, I’ll be using the next few days to catch up.