Word of the Year for 2017

Do you pick a ‘Word of the Year’? This is a New Years tradition where you select a word to focus on for the next 12 months. I’ve seen others do this in the past but haven’t given it a shot myself. I didn’t intend to do it this year either, but two words have been flashing in bright, neon lights in my head and laying heavily on my heart for the last month or so. I figure this must be a sign.

HeaLth & Gratitude

I decided on two words- one is really more for my husband & I to focus on (Health) and one is more for the kids (Gratitude). Of course, we will work on them together as I want the children to see gratitude demonstrated by the adults in their lives and I want to teach the children healthy behaviors. I have a feeling that Bryan & Annie will end up teaching us a thing or two along the way as well.

Why Health?

For starters, 2016 wasn’t an especially healthy year for us in general and it all reached a peak of concern right before the end of the year. I was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism over the summer, which was corrected with surgery the week of Christmas. Jon had an old ACL injury flare up right before New Years, which required a New Years Eve visit to Urgent Care. After a pretty solid virus-free period, we all came down with colds in December and continue to pass them back & forth. I guess we are a little better at sharing than I give us credit for.

I have struggled with being overweight pretty much all of my life, excluding a period of two years in Graduate School where I focused on my health, learned to enjoy exercise, managed my blood sugar with a reasonable diet and lost a considerable amount of weight. Can I go back to Grad School?!? Jon is very active, walking an average of about 5 miles a day at work, but he could certainly benefit from some healthy lifestyle tweaks. My kids… and this is tough for me to say… are following in my footsteps.

Both Bryan & Annie were born prematurely; Bryan weighed 5 pounds 1 ounce when we brought him home from the hospital and Annie weighed 4 pounds 11 ounces at birth. For months we struggled to gain ounces. Literally, every ounce gained was a victory that we celebrated. Now, Bryan is in the 96% for weight and Annie is in the 75%. Granted, they are both also very tall for their age but of course, I worry. I want better for them. I have discussed this with their Pediatrician and she is not in any hurry to place them on a ‘diet’ but did recommend that we cut out empty calories. So that is what we plan to do.

This is what a healthy lifestyle looks like to us:

  • less processed food & empty calories
  • more physical activity
  • closer to a plant-based diet (though we will probably never give up meat & eggs)

But being healthy to me means much more than just physical health; it encompasses pretty much every aspect of our lives including:

Financial Health

This is a BIG one. I wouldn’t say that we are financially unhealthy right now, but there is certainly room for improvement. In our household, my husband works to provide a living for us and I work to provide a life for us. Jon wants as little to do with our finances as I will let him get away with, besides, of course, earning our income.

I prepare and manage our budget and, being that I am totally a Type-A personality, it involves pretty elaborate Excel spreadsheets.  My husband makes a good salary and there is always the hope that each year will bring about an increase in income, but I can’t say that I feel I have been managing our budget well. I would give myself a solid C and I’m not very comfortable with being ‘average’. It doesn’t matter to me that we are doing okay, better than many, and keeping afloat; I’d like to feel that we are doing better than that, thriving even. I am great at writing budgets, not so great at sticking to them. So this year, I am going to work on that. I don’t want to stress myself out at the end of each month with another ‘I blew the budget… again’ dilemma. And I am a firm believer that more income doesn’t solve a budget problem; one can mismanage any amount of money.

I feel extremely fortunate that my husband & I are on the same page when it comes to… well, most things… but speaking specifically here about finances. There are some basic principles related to money and how we use/spend/save it that he & I are in total agreement on. A couple years ago, before we even had the kids, I was discussing Christmas plans with a relative and she said to me, ‘Don’t worry about getting our kids anything big for Christmas. I know you guys don’t have much.’ This definitely caught me off guard. I was working at the time and thought that we made a pretty good combined income. While I probably should have been offended, I didn’t feel that way at all which also surprised me. When I shared this with Jon he responded in a typical ‘Jon’ way… “I’d rather have it and have other people think we don’t than not have it but have them think we do.” That about sums up our financial strategy; live well, but well within our means.

I will say that we have a number in our mind that we feel is a safe amount for us to have in savings in case we were to suffer a financial set-back… and we are not at that figure yet. So this is what financial health looks like to us

  • more savings
  • better budget management

 Mental & Emotional Health

I’m not sure how to separate these two; they feel so integrated to me.  Again, I wouldn’t say that we are unhealthy mentally & emotionally, though catch me on the wrong day and I might disagree. My husband’s job can be stressful and I acknowledge that being the sole bread-winner in the family adds a level of pressure on him, though I know that he is grateful to be able to provide for our family and we feel very fortunate that he is so reliable and capable. Being a stay-at-home-mom is a much harder job than I anticipated when I left my career three years ago. I live at work and there are days weeks when I feel like I have been on the clock 24/7 and haven’t had a minute to myself. Though I know it’s just words, the times when Jon says ‘I don’t know how you do it all’ are HUGE in terms of allowing me to feel appreciated and helping me muster the strength to get through the rough minutes, hours and days.

My husband and I both struggle with taking time for ourselves, independently and together. Jon works a lot so when he isn’t working he wants to give all his time to us. I spend all of my time with the children, so much so that I can forget that parenting is a privilege and not just work. When Jon comes home from work I feel badly leaving the house (on my own) because it can feel- to both of us- that I am clocking out and making Jon clock back into a ‘job’… even though he just got home from work… and kids aren’t suppose to be work, but let’s face it- they totally are! Is this making sense??

It’s clear to me what we need to work on this year for a healthier mentality and stronger emotional well-being:

  • Quality alone time
  • Quality together time

Parent-guilt (and let’s just start calling it that, because Dads do feel guilt too) needs to get kicked to the curb; it has no place in our home anymore. A couple times a year, Jon likes to go away for a weekend to fish. It’s his ‘me’ time and it’s HUGELY beneficial in terms of helping him unplug from a stressful life of being constantly connected to multiple computers and two cell phones… hell, even his watch is ‘smart’ and pings him all day long. It’s not a luxury for him anymore; it is getting moved this year to the essentials column and I am going to support him and help him make sure it happens, for his mental and emotional well-being.

Same goes for me. I need time away. I am going to leave the house without the kids more frequently and I will stop rushing home and apologizing when I get there for how long I was out. Someone please remind me of this every couple of months.

For goodness sake, we need to stop seeing our role as parents as being ‘work’. I know, even I rolled my eyes a little bit as I typed that. I know it’s work, but we need to start having more fun with our children on a regular basis. I don’t have a solid plan of attack for this yet, but I’m starting with a nightly game time with Bryan.

I am a morning person; come 7-8 pm you are not going to get the best of me. This is the time of day when I usually just want to be left alone. But, Annie goes to bed about 2 hours earlier than Bryan and I’ve noticed that he has been getting ‘bored’ every night, but neither Jon nor myself have been mustering up the energy to focus on him. It’s been too easy to put on a Disney movie or send him to bed with his tablet and play on our phones. Yuck. It makes me so sad to say that. So, we have started a new tradition. Bryan & I play a game every night after Annie goes to bed. Could be Go Fish, Candyland or Spot It. Last night we had a particularly thrilling game of Monopoly Jr. that lasted well over 30 minutes. But even if it’s just 10-15 minutes, it ends both of our days on a positive note and sends my son to bed feeling that Mommy enjoys playing with him.

HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

Every year at Christmas time I ask Jon if there is anyone new that we want to add to our Christmas card list and his response is always the same, ‘I hope not.’ No one has ever accused my husband of being a social butterfly. My attitude about it is that I don’t get to spend enough time with the friends I already have; if I have time to give to building new relationships, I’d rather invest it in reconnecting with my ‘old’ friends. When we have available time, we are more likely to spend it with family than anyone else, but I am definitely missing our friends now.

We have quite a few friends that do not live near us and it’s hard to connect with them, but we do have a handful of great local friends who we need to work harder at enjoying time with. This year, we need to stop using the kids as an excuse and rebuild those friendships that are important to us. I miss date nights out with friends so I hope that we can start doing more of those again. We need to invite friends over more… even if the house isn’t clean, even if it’s just for spaghetti or pizza… let the kids come too. It needs to happen.

And let’s not forget one of the most important relationships in my life: my marriage. I have no complaints when it comes to our marriage, but we would certainly love to spend more time alone together. Intentional time alone together. We are very lucky that my parents live nearby and are willing to keep BOTH kids overnight so frequently, but we usually just use that time to get stuff around the house done or veg out. A blogger I read, Jordan Page at FunCheaporFree.com, is a huge advocate for ‘dating’ your spouse and I’d love to do more of that in 2017.

Relationship goals:

  • Socialize with friends more
  • Date my spouse

A Healthy Household

We spend a lot of time at home. It’s not just a house to us. In order for our days to run smoothly, our home needs to be in tip-top working order. That means organized, functional, clutter-free and possibly even clean. If organization were a love language, it would be mine. I live in a constant state of evaluating, organizing, purging, rinse & repeat. There is almost always one ‘trouble zone’, be it a room, closet or cabinet, that just doesn’t function or serve the purpose I need it to.

There was a period of probably two weeks last year where I looked around our home and thought… ‘I don’t have any trouble zones right now!’ Every square inch of the house (garage and basement excluded) was working pretty well for us. And then we decided to rearrange furniture in our living room. These periods of rest are few and far between, but that’s okay. If it works for us for awhile, great. When it stops working, then it needs tweaked.

There are a few projects on the list for 2017 for our home. The exterior of the house is in desperate need of a power-wash. It usually happens annually but hasn’t for the last two summers, so that will get done this year. My husband has a partial bathroom in the basement for his ‘man cave.’ I call it the ‘urinal closet’, since it just has a urinal and a sink. (What else does a man cave need?) Except it isn’t a closet… it’s open to the laundry area. I have a urinal in my laundry room. He is going to close it up and make it a proper bathroom this year.

My tub needs recaulked and if money permits we are going to rip out my husbands awful, leaky shower in his bathroom and replace it with a nice tiled shower stall. These are just annoying to-do list kinda things,  but because our home is so important to us and because how well it is functioning makes such a difference in our daily lives, we are very intentional about planning out our annual projects. Usually our tax refund goes almost exclusively into our home. Sure there are definitely more exciting things that we could be doing with that cash, but we take pride in our home. We love it (almost all the time) and it truly is an investment. You have to invest in anything in your life that is important to you, be it your health, relationships, career or home.

Gratitude

Bryan will be 5 years old this February. I am in awe daily at how big, smart, creative and interesting he is. I’m also petrified. It’s becoming clear to me that this parenting business is starting to get ‘real’. I thought having newborns was hard; now the real work of shaping a good and responsible human being begins.

Bryan no longer exists within our bubble. Whether he is kind, respectful, caring… or not is starting to impact more and more people, besides just his father and myself. He has teachers, friends and coaches now. It’s one thing to overlook an attitude towards me at home, brushing it off as him being little and assume he will grow out of it. It’s a completely other thing to hear that he told his teacher that ‘he is going to do what he wants to do’ or watching him get called out for not listening to his coach on the soccer field.

My worse fear, besides a really traumatic event, is that my children will be unkind to others. If they become nothing else in life, I want to know that they are nice. I have absolutely no idea how to make sure that happens, but it’s on the forefront of my mind daily.

Christmas was an eye-opener this year. I won’t say that Bryan was ungrateful, necessarily, but he certainly didn’t demonstrate the level of gratitude that I would like to see from him. I try to be careful to not expect adult-like thoughts, behaviors or emotions from a child, but I don’t feel that I can put this off anymore. Bryan is a blessed child. He needs to know this and feel appreciation for the gifts he has received in life, physically and otherwise.

Again, I’m feeling a bit clueless and unprepared for this stage of parenting, but I’ve come up with a plan that feels pretty solid right now: A Year of Family Service. This isn’t new; I’m pretty sure I saw it at some point on a blog or Pinterest. Once a month, for the 12 months of 2017, I would like our family to work together on a project that serves others. I don’t have them all planned out, but I’ve got a few leads and ideas. Anything that takes into account how others feel or helps another human being (or living creature) with a need qualifies. We will be giving, be it of money, supplies or our time. Less focus on us, more focus on others.

It’s important to me that we do this together as a family. Sure, I could take the kids to Walmart once a month to buy food for a food bank or toys for Toys For Tots, but I’m not sure that is enough immersion for this to truly resonate with a young child. I don’t want to scare Bryan by introducing him to concepts that might burst his happy little bubble, like terminal illness, homelessness or poverty, but I would like him to know that there is always someone out there who could use our help or kindness and to learn that there are so many difference ways to give service to others.

I picked one project for April. It is a kids fun run at a local amusement park. Proceeds will benefit a local organization that provides assistance to families with children with terminal illnesses. Bryan is going to have a blast spending the day at the event and participating in the run, but leading up to it we will be going around to family and friends to ask for donation pledges. I’m not sure yet how he will do with this, as he is just now starting to understand the concept of money. He recently started receiving $2 allowance a week and after saving up $14 he said he was going to buy a truck like daddy. Hopefully, at the end of the year, I will be able to write a blog post about what a huge success this project was and all the life lessons we have learned. We will gladly accept all prayers for patience, open hearts and open minds!

For more information or to register for the Magical Miles for Magical Smiles Fun Run, visit http://www.magicalmemoriesforkids.com/page6 .

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