Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Family Tenants

In light of the tradition of goal-setting at the year's beginning, I thought it'd be timely to share a post on our family tenants. 

A while back I had a conversation with a friend who was transitioning out of her job to stay at home with her boys.  In the course of our conversation we discussed some of the pros and cons of being both a working or at at-home  (or a both) mommy.  I shared that one of the hardest things for me has always been staying intentional about using our days wisely and not letting them just slip away and be "boring."  But on the flipside, with the Internet and Pinterest, etc., you can also feel like a Momma failure if you aren't conducting a full-fledged homeschool session complete with flashy craft projects and a light board and amazing field trips to the moon.  So for me, I needed to sit down and decide what was MOST IMPORTANT for our family--to have a set of tenants that I use to conduct our days. 

It took me several days and several drafts, but I came up with something that is so helpful to keep in the back of my mind (and the back page of my journal that goes everywhere with me) as I decide what we do and where we go and what we eat and how our schedule looks.  It both challenges me (some of the tenants are a little difficult to consistently adhere to!) but also gives me relief when we eat fast food for lunch one day (knowing that overall we eat great and one day isn't going to ruin this for us). 

So here's what is most important in our days as a family:
*We serve and love on others every week. 
I had to think through this one.  Could we do it every day?  I sure hope so, but maybe not always.  So AT LEAST once a week we are intentional about a "bigger" act of service (and of course we work hard to live like Jesus and serve in the little things/ways every day)--right now what that looks like is often writing letters/notes/drawings to a handful of shut-ins and sick folks we've committed to encouraging.  Some weeks this is challenging--to get the notes written, addressed, mailed....more work that it sounds!  But it also helps alleviate the guilt when we can't visit every nursing home and cook food for everyone who needs it.  Some day those things may be good fits for us, but right now my kids are learning to serve and love others through a weekly act (and the small things I mentioned before).  I also feel that by not packing our "Serving Schedule" too full we can really focus on the people we write to encourage.

*We pray, praise, and study God's word together every day.
This looks different through different seasons, ages, and even days of the week, but having this tenant helps me be intentional that every day has these elements included in it.  On school days a lot of this happens in our morning "Driving Devotional." 

*We love our neighbors as ourselves: sharing, talking kindly and upliftingly, gentle touches.
This tenant really helps me focus in on my discipline and what battles I choose with my kiddos, and the intent behind discipline encounters with them.  Also guides the language I use with them during discipline. 

*We leave room in our days for the Holy Spirit by not overfilling our calendar(s). 
I mentioned earlier that we are intentional about one act of service a week.  But I really feel that by not overfilling our calendars we leave room for other things the Spirit might lead us to--and often that may be an act of service.  Because we don't have a gazillion extra-curricular activities, we are able to say yes to these things and not feel stressed.  This tenant, in particular, helps guide us in saying no to pretty much all kid-type extra curricular activities for right now (realizing this may change as they age).  We've decided that Quinn's 3 days of preschool and my/Beck's 1 day of Bible Study (on the same day Q does school) is the extent of our extra curricular activities.  No dance, gymnastics, sports, music lessons, etc. at this point in time for us.  I supplement a lot of that at home in simple preschooler-appropriate ways, but we have decided that for us an open calendar is more important that possibly over-filling our days and not leaving room to be together and allow the Spirit to guide our time. 

*We take care of our home together.  
My kids have chores.  Even the 2 year old.  And they are expected to clean up everything they use.  We all live here and we consider our home and our things as blessings God has given us.  As a result, this leads us to use them wisely and be good stewards of them.  Which means everyone pitches in.  And Daddy is the best example of all, to be truthful!  That man can wash some dishes, fold some laundry, and vacuum a floor in a crazy-good way!

*We eat wholesome, unprocessed food together at the table.
We try to limit ourselves to only 2 meals eaten out a week.  We generally don't do food dyes  and added sugar (sweets) except on Saturdays (we call it "sugar day" and have one sweet treat....more on that in later post).  Also we ALWAYS eat at the table.  My kids don't EVER eat anywhere else.  No snacks anywhere else, no drinks anywhere else other than the table. 

*We exercise our bodies with outside play, dancing and touch. 
This means my kids are outside every day.  In the rain.  In the cold.  In the crazy-hot heat.  Obviously we use weather-appropriate clothing and weather-appropriate activities (ie: we are at the pool every day in August!!) but my kids need to exercise those little bodies, develop their proprioceptive systems, use up their energy, and be kids.  And I need fresh air and exercise, too!  We also have dancing time inside several times a week, and tickle sessions (with wrestling for the little man) every night before bed!  We use a lot of massage with the kids, too, especially before bed and especially as a calming tool. 

*We're screen-free during the week and Mama is during awake-hours and Tuesday nights.  
My kids don't watch any tv/video/dvd/computer during the week.  Nothing.  Not even one show.  I don't have the tv on, either.  On Saturday mornings Q often gets to watch Mr.Rogers a bit so the rest of us can sleep in.  And Daddy shows Little Man chainsaw videos on Youtube.  But during the week we feel that research so abundantly proves that it's best for our kids to be screen free.  I work my very hardest to be during their awake hours, too.  No email, computer, etc.  Also we've declared Tuesday nights "No Tech Tuesdays" for Matt and I after dinner.  We spend the time together with no technology.  Do I need to tell you that Tuesday has become my favorite night?  :) 

*We read good books.
We read to the kids before nap/rest and at bedtime every day.  And often in-between!  We go to the library every week.  I keep active book lists of developmentally appropriate and interest-appropriate books for my kiddos.  And I try to read, too, though often it's just my Bible Study material.  But that works!

*We rest our bodies.
We do rest/nap every day.  Q doesn't sleep, so she has to stay on her bed and listen to her books on CD for about an hour, then she can play quietly in her room.  Her body really still needs to slow down and rest, and she also benefits from "forced boredom" by having to use her imagination to play quietly in her room!

*We enjoy God's creation together.
We watch birds, we look at cows and fields on the way to school.  We observe the trees change colors. We take nature walks.  We read nature books.  We love nature and enjoying our God as Elohim--creator God!

*We play and learn together.
Our days contain playful and learning times, in a balance with the other tenants that are important to us.  I spend time making a loose plan for each "home day" and we have a plan for the rhythm of our week.  We follow a general schedule every day of our time. 

So there it is....It has worked so great for me as a mom.  Like I mentioned, this little piece of work guides my days....keeps me on my toes, and keeps me from being overwhelmed.

Wanted to share this time of year in case it might be something that appeals to other Mama's, as they think of the upcoming year and what is most important for their family.