Forgive Me for What I Did Not Do

The other night, as I was snuggling with my husband and girls, my eldest told me that I spend too much time paying bills, being on my computer, and on my phone and not enough time playing with my family.  Her words struck me to the core.  I know she’s right.  Social media outlets are my weakness.  Half the time I check them out of habit and boredom more than interest.  It’s really quite sad.  The real heartbreak though is that I obviously failed to uphold my Testimony of Children goals I made for myself.

I think one of the problems is that I tried to track my media use in minutes.  I think I need to base it more on visits.  My new, and hopefully more realistic goal, is to allow myself three check-ins with social media.  I’ll save one for my morning, one for mid-day, and one for evening.  I’m sure this still sounds excessive to some, but it’s currently much more frequent than that.  In addition to managing my social media, I’m going to try to keep my bill paying and writing for times when it does not take away from family time.  For instance, all the kiddos are either in school or napping right now.  This is a perfect time to work on some things for me.

Since my eldest’s remarks, I have been more cognizant of my screen time.  But my short-comings on the matter came to the forefront of my mind again as I was saying my bedtime prayers last night.  I was reflecting on the things I needed to repent for in my day, when I realized that it was not so much what I did that I needed to ask forgiveness for, but it was more of what I didn’t do.  Checking Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are not sinful activities.  However, missing out on opportunities to nurture my relationship with my children is quite remorseful. 



It’s not just my children that I’m missing out on though, it’s life in general.  When I get feeling low, I tend to hide and withdraw from the world around me.  I base my connections on those that I can keep at a virtual distance.  I engage less with my children, my husband, and loved ones around me.  I isolate myself to protect myself.  Sometimes the cloud over me lifts on it’s own accord and sometimes I get a stinging wake-up call to encourage me to work harder at pulling myself out of it.  This time I think I owe my eldest my gratitude for helping me see that what I was feeling internally was inadvertently being felt by all those around me.

As I’ve been looking for ways to break free from my sluggish and blue emotional state, I’ve reflected on the fact that all the things that make me feel better are things that I don’t initially want to do.  Why is that?  I remember as a young teenager, I never wanted to go to church.  I would dread those Sunday mornings and drag my feet.  However, by the time I walked out of the church building, I always felt rejuvenated and inspired.  I came out feeling better.  It’s the same with exercise.  I hate to exercise.  I really, really do.  Yet whenever I complete a workout or even a simple walk, I feel more energized and optimistic.  

I feel the same way about playing with my kids sometimes.  I know that sounds bad, but I’m just not very good at playing.  I never have been.  Even when I was a kid, I was known for wanting to hang out with the adults.  Sure, I had Barbies and My Little Ponies, but I tired quickly of those activities.  My imagination is very limited for some reason.  I think that’s why the idea of playing with my kids doesn’t always sound appealing.  I enjoy my kids company and love to do stuff with them, but just sitting around a playing isn’t easy for me.  But, just as with church and exercise, I feel so much better when I get down to their level and play in their world.

So, in honor of my resolution for this Bright New Year, I’m going to try to bring the bright into our home by doing what doesn’t come easy to me.  I’m going to try to incorporate walks more, increase my time focused on spiritual matters and set aside more time to play with my family, per my eldest’s suggestion.  I’m beginning to see a pattern here that things worth working for are truly the most rewarding and fulfilling ways to engage in the world around you.

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Meaningful Traditions

I am a big supporter of traditions.  My Mom did an amazing job of having all sorts of fun things to look forward to at various times of year.  One of my favorites was our first day of school tradition.  When our first day ended, we would return home to the delicious smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven.  Those chocolate chip cookies were amazing.  My Mom used the Nestle Toll House recipe.  However, she must have added a heavy dose of Love in there, as they never taste as good when I try to replicate them.  Regardless of my abilities, I make chocolate chip cookies for my girls every year for their first day of school.

Another tradition that has been carried on in our home due to it’s memorable role in my childhood is my Mom’s Halloween Sugar Cookies.  I still have the cookie cutter she used.  It’s such a pain to use since it’s not just an outline cut-out.  It’s a cookie cutter that pushes in a darling little pumpkin face, which then gets covered up by frosting.  It’s such a shame that nobody can see the detail of the cutout, but I still use it because my Mom did.  I also still use raisins to make the Jack-o-Lantern face since that’s what my Mom used.  Even though most people prefer and suggest that I use chocolate chips instead, I stick with tradition.  I really am painfully loyal to the tradition.

That all being said, I think it’s important that we reevaluate the traditions we carry on in our lives.  I make my Mom’s sugar cookies using her cutout for half of the batch and then finish the dough off making cookies that are smaller and easier to produce.  I honor the tradition but I also strive to prevent the tradition from overwhelming me to the point of unnecessary stress.
Sometimes we risk traditions losing their meaning when we get carried away with them.  I’m not sure who is to blame for this epidemic of quantity and perfection over meaning and reflection when it comes to traditions.  My guess would be that Pinterest had a hand in it.  While I am a supporter of Pinterest, I fear many women feel this need to do every tradition, craft, and holiday treat posted on there.  I often become a victim myself.  I almost have to avoid Pinterest completely during the holidays to protect myself from feeling like a failure of a Mom for not doing Elf on a Shelf, the Advent Calendar, Gingerbread Houses, homemade Christmas ornaments, Secret Santa, Caroling, the 12 Days of Christmas, and the like in the course of 25 days.  I love traditions, especially the Christmas ones, but sometimes I feel like we overdo it and lose the spirit of the season or tradition.
Let me reiterate that I truly cherish traditions.  I baked the Halloween cookies, we took the kids to a real Pumpkin Patch (a first for me), we carved pumpkins, and we’ll be dining on chili, cornbread, and hot dogs tomorrow evening, per tradition.  I love providing meaningful traditions for my children.

 

But I wanted to remind readers, and myself, that we don’t have to do it all to prove ourselves in anyway.  Sometimes beginning involves minimizing and being okay with ourselves for knowing our limits.  I think Elf on a Shelf is a darling idea, but if I add that to my list of traditions, my children are going to wake up to one angry elf everyday in December.
As we continue through this fun holiday season, remember it’s okay to have your child come home with 20+ holiday goodie bags that other Moms made for the class when your accomplishment for the day consisted of getting your child to school with a warm jacket on.  Embrace the traditions that have real meaning to you and your family.  Begin letting go of the excess and treasure the simple traditions that beget warm memories rather than stress.
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A Testimony of Children

I’m a woman of faith.  The word testimony gets used a lot when discussing principles of Gospel Truths.  My very loose definition of the word is that it means we have a sure knowledge of something.  For example, I have a testimony of the power of prayer.  I know that prayers work.  I’ve seen the blessings there of time and time again.

Regardless of one’s stance on matters of faith, I think you can have a testimony of other matters.  I once heard a Mom say she wanted to have a stronger testimony of her children.  What a concept, right?  Imagine trying to learn and understand your children in such a way that you truly know them.

As a Stay-at-Home Mom, you’d think I would know all about my kids.  I’m with them constantly.  I know how they like their food, I know what shows they like, I know that they will whine and complain when I ask them to clean-up, and I know that going to the park still gets cheers from each of them.  I know them.  But, do I?  I want to know more about them.  Each of them.  Individually.

Recently, I’ve been so caught up in social media that I feel like my children’s lives are disappearing before my very eyes.  I want to know more about my kids than I do about the eating habits of people that I once knew vaguely in High School.  It’s pathetic really how I get sucked in to the social media world.

So, Step 1, we can have lots of fun.  Oh wait!  That’s New Kids On The Block.  Although, they may be on to something.  We’ll get back to their steps in a moment.

Step 1 – Monitor and time my social media activity.  I’m giving myself 30 minutes a day.  This might sound excessive to most.  However, if you knew how much I was really on these sites, you’d realize that this is a significant decrease.

I started timing myself today.  I used 8 minutes this morning.  Then, I was sitting in the line for gas (it’s illegal to pump your own gas in the fine state of Oregon) and instinct told me to pick up my phone and check the social media circuit.  The kids weren’t in the car so I figured it wasn’t taking away from anything anyway, right?  Then, I recalled an article that I read this past May called How The Smartphone Killed The Three-day Weekend.  It explained how constant media use is, “robbing our brains of critical downtime that encourages creative thinking.”

Creative thinking that I could be using to come up with fun things to do with my children.  Which brings us back to New Kids on the Block, we can have lots of fun.  I want to know what makes my kids laugh the hardest.  I’m pretty sure it’s when they have my husband’s and my undivided attention.  If that’s the case, I can so easily give them more of that and therefore more fun in their lives.

Step 2 – More dance parties.  My kids love them and they do a world of good for all those involved.  I know some of their favorite songs.  Maybe if I listen and observe a little more, I can figure out what makes each of those songs their favorite songs.  What is it that pulls them in and gets them grooving?

Step 3 – Individual time with each of them.  I don’t just want a testimony of my children.  I want a testimony of Abigail.  A testimony of Vivian.  A testimony of August.

Sometimes I forget that playing with my kids is part of my gig.  I feel like I should be cleaning and budgeting and cooking and tending to matters of the home.  I forget that playing with my kids is as much a part of me raising them as feeding them is.  Somewhere I misled myself into thinking that playing with my kids is me slacking.  I should be “working.”  When in reality, playing with my kids may very well be the most important thing I do with them all day.

That being said, I’m going to go play.  They’re outside my window making chalk drawings on the porch right now.  I think there may be a flower that needs to be drawn by this Mommy.

I’m going to go strengthen my testimony of my children.  Please share ways that you improve your relationship with your children.

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Facebook Falsehoods

Social Media has taken over most of our lives.  I’m as guilty as the next person.  I only have three friends that I can think of that have made a vow never to get on to Facebook or Instagram.  They don’t even have a blog for me to stalk.  How is a social media stalker, like myself, supposed to keep tabs on my friends’ lives?  Oh yeah, that’s right, we still have phones.  Though it seems as though picking up a phone and talking to someone in real time has become archaic.

Alas, this post isn’t to rant about the lost art of proper communication.  This post is to address the falsehoods that arise from checking Facebook and any other social media for that matter.  The falsehood being the feeling that you are doing nothing while everyone else is doing everything.

I can’t imagine that I am the only victim of this falsehood.  Or rather, I hope I’m not the only victim.  Logically, I have it on good authority that nobody is perfect nor are they living a perfect life free of strife.  However, emotionally, I sometimes feel like my Facebook friends are forever vacationing, those I follow on Pinterest are always doing fun crafts with their kids, and the blogs I read are comprised of families living the perfect life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for those I “stalk” to post all their dirty laundry.  Quite the contrary.  I want to teach myself to realize that these moments in time that are posted are just that; moments.

Sure everyone seems to be on vacation right now and I’m sitting in a city with gloomy weather this week.  But guess what?  Next week is supposed to be sunny and I have plans to float the river with my family.  And you know what?  I’ll probably post a picture about it.  I won’t post it to rub it in any one’s face that I’m doing something grand and they’re not.  I’ll post it because it’s a fun memory and I want to share it.

So, I’ll talk myself down from my Facebook Falsehood and then I’ll go on to Pinterest.  Oh, Pinterest, why do you taunt me so?

The hardest thing to see on Pinterest, for me, are the millions of crafts and things you can do with your kids.  Each kids craft I see elicits two immediate thoughts: 1) That’s cool, and 2) I’m such a bad Mom.  Without fail, I see some hands on activity done with kids and I automatically think of all the things I am NOT doing for my kids that apparently every other Mom is doing.

I’ve recently realized that I was clicking on crafts that five separate Moms had posted as having done with their kids.  The problem is that I was turning those five separate women into one perfect Mom.  One woman might post a craft that prepares their child for Kindergarten, another has a quiet book they hand-made to keep their children behaved in waiting rooms, another parent will post about making play dough from scratch, another has made a board game that teaches their kids about numbers, and yet another will have posted a meal that has been cut into different shapes to entice their children to eat their vegetables.  Perhaps there is a Mom that has done all of these 5 things.  I’d like to believe she is not doing it all in one day nor everyday.  She is doing it in “moments.”

This happened today.  I let the kids put every clip we owned into my hair and I wore it out in public.  This isn’t going to end up on Pinterest.  It’s certainly not a cute craft that is sweeping the Internet.  However, I imagine it will be something my kids remember.  They were having a blast disowning me in public.  But, in case there was some doubt, I do not do this everyday.  I did it for a moment.
I live a life filled with significant and insignificant moments.  Some days I have the courage to go out looking silly and other days I don’t have the energy to even face the world.  Please know that I am not a woman solely made up of Facebook posts nor are any of the other people you follow.
Do not fall in to the trap of comparing your life of one single person against the combined total of every talent, vacation, success, and virtue of your entire social media list.  You will never win that battle.  Think of the rich blessings you have that aren’t being posted.  Your talents, whether big or small, that are not receiving media attention of any kind.  We have a choice to be grateful.  More important than that, we owe it to ourselves to live in a reality.  Unrealistic comparisons and beliefs of the grandeur of others’ lives sounds nightmarish.
Take a moment and look at the things you DO have going for you in your life.  Sometimes reality can be better than our dreams; sometimes it’s not.  Then, make a point this week to touch base with a loved one outside of a social media and find out how their “reality” is going this week.  You might find yourself more likely to relate to the following quote upon doing so:
Friendship is born at that moment
when one person says to another,
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
– C. S. Lewis
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