I absolutely love the start of a new year. I love thinking about change and goals and what I want to accomplish in the next year. This year, in thinking about making goals and changes, I realized I don't have many major things I want to accomplish. Rather, I want to focus on some of the smaller, everyday things. Habits I want to develop, things I want to incorporate into our daily routine, ways I can make our day run more smoothly. I've realized that for me, success with doing something on a regular basis requires me finding a time during the day that really works for us - a way to fit it into our lives almost seamlessly, so that it doesn't really take a lot of extra effort. Thankfully, we've already made some minor changes that really seem to be working for us. Such as:
1. A way for the kids to get a drink of water themselves. I realized that I was being asked all the time for a drink of water. Of course, I'm happy to help the kids with things they need, but the frequency of this request (and the fact that it usually came right after I'd sat down) was making me a bit grumpy. It seemed like something they could take care of themselves if I had the right set up. I finally decided to try a drink dispenser. We've had it for about a couple of weeks now, and it's working like a charm. I add water when I notice it's a bit low, and each morning I put out a few cups, and they help themselves throughout the day, and they'll even refill their cups at meals. They, of course, think it's fun, which is great, too. Total win!
2. Scripture memorization. I've been wanting to incorporate this into our routine for a long time, but it was something I was always forgetting about. I thought about doing it at our morning time, but Seth wanted to be involved, too. So I decided to try adding it at dinnertime. That's when we read a Bible story to the kids, anyway, so it seemed to fit. It's going great so far; the three older kids pretty much have Psalm 1 down pat, so tonight we're going to move on to Psalm 23. I started out just reading the portion out loud a couple of times. After a couple of days, I started having them fill in words, and then more and more until we could recite the whole thing.
3. Exercise. This is something I always want to incorporate in my daily routine, but I just never seem to get around to it, or I don't feel like doing it when I do think of it. Seth and I have started getting up 10 minutes earlier each morning and doing a quick exercise routine first thing in the morning. Usually when we try to stick to an exercise routine like this we can't miss a single day or we get out of our groove and don't get back to it, but we've had several times now when we've missed a day (weekends or when we had a stomach bug last week), and we've gotten right back to it with no problems. I think it's working for us because we're just tacking it on to something we're already doing (getting up for Seth to go to work), rather than making it a special time during the day.
4. Morning Time. When we started our homeschool year last fall, I was doing morning time right after snack time, in the middle of the morning. But it always felt like an interruption to our morning, and I was struggling to remember to do it. Then I decided to switch it to right before lunch - I was done with my morning work, the kids were done playing, and everything was cleaned up. That's been working much better, and I don't have to force myself to do it.
5. Keeping the counter clean. Every home we've lived in has had a "dumping counter"; somewhere in the kitchen that we tend to pile stuff that needs to be taken care of. The counter is perpetually messy, and it not only looks bad on its own, but it makes the whole kitchen seem messy. That counter drives me crazy, so I finally decided to see how long I could keep it clean. It really is true that clutter begets clutter; if I put one thing on that counter, it's a lot easier to put something else on it, too. So I'm trying to keep myself from putting anything on it - instead I'm taking the extra 5 seconds to actually put the item where it belongs. Now that I've gotten in the groove of doing that, it's not as hard as it seemed at first. The counter is clean and every time I look at it it makes me smile!
Those few changes are little things, really, but our days feel a bit calmer and smoother and that is really a big deal!
I'm still working on some other things that I'm hoping will become habits this year:
1. Menu Planning. I don't like making meal plans - it seems like too many decisions to make at one time. But once I've done it, I love having a meal plan made, and you would think that would be enough motivation for me to do it, but somehow it hasn't been. But I've realized how much time and energy I spend each day trying to figure out "what's for dinner", and I know it makes my day go much more smoothly when I have a plan in place. So I'm going to give making this a habit another go. I know it would help so much if I can be successful at this! Right now I'm trying to figure out the best time/day to do this on a regular basis.
2. Getting outside every day. This was easy in the summer, but we fell out of this habit once the weather turned cold and rainy. It was hard to get outside with Toby, since he would be crawling around on the wet ground (though he loved it), and to be honest I don't always feel like going outside in the cold and wet. But I know we all need fresh air, the kids need to be able to run around, and Toby's walking now, so I'm trying to make this a priority again - even if it's just for 10 minutes. As I had already figured out, the afternoon is the best time for us to do this, so it's really just a matter of me doing it.
I'm sure more things will come up over the course of the year, but this is what we're doing right now. It's nice to have some of these routines in place already as we look forward to our new little person arriving in a couple of weeks, which I know will bring plenty of other schedule changes as well!