Categories
Current Events Ink Slingers Resources Your Handy-Dandy List

New Year’s Resolutions: Top Tips and Suggestions

It’s that time of year! 

At the end of the year, once the Christmas presents have been unwrapped, visitors are saying their goodbyes,  and we all are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief after all the baking, cooking, and cleaning has been accomplished, we start thinking of the new year. While we certainly don’t have to wait until the new year to make positive changes, the arrival of a new year does tend to encourage reflection.What do we want to accomplish? How has this year been great or bad, and how do we want our next year to be different?

For our family, and many others, this manifests as a list of resolutions.  But the myriad of things to want to improve can be, at times, dizzying. After all, aren’t we all a major work in progress? So here, I’ve provided some useful tips and resolution suggestions to peruse while thinking about what you
might like to work on the most this coming year.New Year's Resolutions-Top Tips and Suggestions

Ten Tips for Good New Year Resolutions:

  1. Keep goals specific. Goals like “lose weight,” or “pray more” are good ideas, but they give far too much room to either expect far too much of ourselves, or too little. Choosing a specific number of pounds you want to lose, or how often you would like to pray will help you to stick to a goal and measure your success. So, if you want to lose 20 pounds, commit to a 0.5-1lb target weight loss per week, with a goal of maintaining that within a 5 lb margin for the remainder of the year after you hit your goal. If you desire to pray more often, add 1 prayer per day to say extra, and determine whether that will be a spontaneous and meditative prayer, or a formed prayer such as a Hail Mary, the rosary, or a saint’s intercessory prayer on the back of a holy card.
  2. Keep it reasonable. Goals are meant to improve yourself, not radically change who you are. Praying more is a great goal, but not if your idea of that is becoming a cloistered lay nun while having to also go through the carpool lane, soccer games, and have 6 kids under 7. Digesting changes in small bites makes it easier for them to stick around as permanent life choices. 
  3. Push yourself. The flip side of keeping it reasonable is to still make sure that your goals actually push you. Don’t commit to eliminating your indulgence in gossip if that isn’t really a problem for you. If you have kept the same weight for 5 years, then maintaining your weight is not a good goal. Goals are meant to push you to essentially purify you over time. We all have areas where we falter and could do better (either for care of ourselves, our world, our spouse, or our kids). Make sure your goals will actually get you moving in a good direction and not remain stagnant.
  4. Remember the categories of wellness. A great set of goals incorporates not just one area of your life, but multiple. Wellness is defined not simply by physical health, but by mental, spiritual, emotional and social health. To be a healthy person, we must take care of our bodies, take care of our hearts and minds, and nurture our relationships with God, our families, our friends, and our communities. Having a set of goals that touches on each of these areas will help you to address your personal development in every aspect.
  5. Have some that don’t take the whole year to accomplish. Many of us like to check boxes on a task list. Work with this. It can be wearisome to have many goals that can’t have success measured at the end of the year. Finishing a craft project you started last year, creating a budget, or other similar one-time or short-term tasks can help you feel like you accomplished something significant while also making progress on your other goals. Another idea would be to have rotating goals on a monthly basis to encourage successes while working on problem areas. For instance, you could say that you might plan to not eat out at all in January, purchase nothing that isn’t on your list in February, and plan your groceries around your stockpile of canned or frozen foods to reduce your grocery budget in March. 
  6. Create a plan for completing bigger goals. If you want to lose weight, how will you do it? You know the saying: Failing to plan is planning to fail. A plan usually involves breaking these bigger tasks down. Thus, if you want to create a budget and stick to it, it is helpful to create your budget one month, implement it the next, and reevaluate and tweak it the following. 
  7. Consider sharing your resolutions for accountability. Harder goals sometimes require more help. Joining a budgeting group on Facebook, gathering a group of friends to commit to saying novenas at the same time, or joining a weight loss/fitness website with community forums can be very helpful in pushing you to complete your goals. Let your spouse know of your goals, too!
  8. Pick 1 or more goals to work on as a family and as a couple. Not all goals need to be personal development. Couples could choose to read a book together or pray more together. Families could commit to more family nights or to having dinner together nightly. Goals can bring couples and families together as everyone works towards the same goal.
  9. Include something that will grow your relationships. By the same token, you can work to improve your relationships without the other folks committing to the same goal. Some spouses choose to do the Love Dare, pray extra for their spouse, offer up sufferings for their children, or take their kids out individually for extra special one-on-one time.
  10. Be okay with life changes making some goals difficult or impossible. Life is fluid and changing. You may want to lose 50 pounds, but find out in March that you are pregnant, and therefore that goal is out the window. Or a family member may become gravely ill and require continuous care that means you can’t get to the daily Mass you had set as a goal of attending. Things happen. Remember what is important: family and faith. If a personal goal needs to take a backseat to more important things in life, then trust that God is simply providing a different tool for personal growth than what you had previously planned for yourself.

 

20 Suggestions for New Year Resolutions:

  1. Switch late night carb snacks to carrot sticks or other snack vegetables (this change can be huge for your waistline!)
  2. Pray 1 extra prayer per day.
  3. Get to confession once per month.
  4. Read 5 extra books (or chapters with larger books) per month to each child.
  5. Hug your spouse every day they are home at least once.Happy New Year! Resolutions
  6. Commit to 1 date night per month with no “shop talk,” but rather simply enjoy each other’s company
  7. Reduce eating out to 1 time per month.
  8. Pray a family rosary once per day/week.
  9. Take one child per month out on a “mom and me” lunch date for great quality one-on-one kid time.
  10. Read 1 novel you haven’t read before.
  11. Read an encyclical by a Pope with your spouse.
  12. Take a Coursera course (free courses online) to learn about something new.
  13. Finish all those incomplete craft projects, and don’t buy supplies for a new craft project until the old ones are complete.
  14. Put $10 extra in your 401(k) every month.
  15. Cut grocery spending by $20 every trip.
  16. Create a detailed budget. (Mint.com has some great free online tools for this)
  17. Take your kids to a soup kitchen once per month to serve the poor (or an alternate service activity).
  18. Exercise 3 times per week for 30-60 minutes.
  19. Play a game as a family once per week.
  20. Focus on elimination of one particular recurrent sin. (Pick an easier one to eliminate that is a problem for you, and put a checkmark on the calendar each day you avoid that sin. Don’t expect perfection, but enjoy your progress.)

I hope these tips and suggestions help to inspire you to tailor a list that will lead you to a successful and wonderful 2016, full of God’s grace and blessings. We can all strive to improve ourselves to glorify God and uplift ourselves, our families, and our communities. May God bless you this coming new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Categories
Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers It Worked For Me Martina Parenting Vocations

Brace Yourselves, You’ve Chosen to Homeschool…Again

This upcoming school year marks our fourth attempt to homeschool. Over the years, I have shared not only the family discernment of homeschooling, but also a homeschool reflection after year one, including going all-in on organizing a dedicated homeschool spot in our old home. Since the end of the second school year came with a brand spankin’ new bebe and a less than brand spankin’ new house, but still new to us, I completely missed the opportunity for reflection.

Rest assured, I won’t let this missed opportunity happen again, friends.

And, it’s not because I think my family is all that important when it comes to big decisions and family events.

In case you don’t like to click links, let me break down the previous years of homeschooling for you.

YEAR ONE REVIEW – 2010-11

  1. Too many subjects. One kiddo had nine subjects – why??
  2. Did the kids finish all of their work? Mostly…AKA yes in homeschool lingo.
  3. Did I try to run away from home throughout the year? Yes, but that’s ok and I’m told it’s quite normal behavior, especially after 4 p.m. AKA the witching hour.
  4. Did the kids break public school habits? Mostly. They still try to strangle their siblings’ throats, but I’m also told this is normal behavior, even within homeschooled families…the urge to strangle will lessen over time, they say.
  5. Is husband still on board with homeschooling? Dunno…since year one was breaking public school habits, most of the homeschool day resembled the after-school homework insanity making it difficult to discern this was the right move for our family. See above #3 again.
  6. Overall success? Do I want to go back into the lion’s den of homeschooling? Yes. Yes, it was hard, but worth the many sacrifices as we learned to be around each other more.
  7. Pat self on back. Hunker down for year two.

Advice for self: try not to have a baby at the beginning of the school year.

YEAR TWO REVIEW – 2011-12

  1. TOTAL. COMPLETE. CHAOS.
  2. Got pregnant at the beginning of the school year.
  3. Started a new multi-contributor blog. Maybe you’ve heard of it? 😉
  4. Hid under nearest rock for most of the first and second trimester.
  5. Minimal formal schooling, lots of real world experiences involving cooking meals, cleaning, and bringing Mom popsicles.
  6. Unexpected putting home up for sale while buying another home.
  7. April: upheaval – LOTS of upheaval. Still very very pregnant.
  8. Moved in May, had baby in June.
  9. Resolve to do better in year three.

Advice for self: seriously did not follow advice from year one review.

New bebe will still be a newborn when year three starts.

YEAR THREE REVIEW – 2012-13

  1. New bebe and new house dictated school year.

    The all things homeschool closet.
  2. Organized closet space specifically for most homeschool materials. Committed to organizing even if I wasn’t good at it. Prayed Lord, help me be more organized.
  3. Went with core subjects, reading, math, and grammar to start and added as the year went on to get my feet under me.
  4. Realized that being extremely deficient in vitamin D contributed to my inability to tackle projects and get through the day.
  5. Start to see structure emerge throughout the year and cautiously test waters with multi-grade instruction.
  6. One kiddo finished school early, and late in the summer for another kiddo. I’ll take this as a success.
  7. The Kreitzer family is officially committed to homeschooling now. ::stifle screams of NOOOOOO::

 

 

So, what advice can I give you now that I have been schooling for three academic years, covering

high school,

middle school,

elementary,

and preschool?

Not much.

But I’m going to, anyway, in the spirit of hopefully appeasing your anxiety.

  • Your family is unique. Your choices will reflect that uniqueness. It’s hard not to look to others and, on some weird non-material Keeping Up With The Joneses thing, not to want to be like our friends. There is a difference between looking to others to inspire us to be better at what we do and looking to others with the idea that our own life is somehow less if we aren’t like The Joneses. God gave us the path that we lead for a reason – be confident that His plan for you and your family will look different than almost everyone else.
  • Pace yourself. No, seriously. I have heard countless tales of well-intentioned mommas and dads who start homeschooling the moment their children are old enough to learn. If you’re in this for the long haul, then going easy in the beginning can be a real life saver. Don’t overwhelm yourself with curriculums and over schedule your family. Start with the essentials and add activities gradually, if at all. If you’re lazy like me, you’ll wait until they’re in second grade to formally school – I kid, somewhat. 😉
  • Make a list of goals. This can be anything from getting up before your kids – if you are so inclined, family Scripture time in the morning or evening, cooking projects, park days, science experiments, field trips, extracurriculars, etc. Even if you can’t fit all of them into your schedule, having a running list will help you focus on what you can incorporate at a later point during the school year – or even next year.
  • Thorough research not necessary. Some think you have to do solid research in order to start homeschooling, and for those folks that may well be true. I was one who took an entire year to discern. I also have friends who homeschool who have degrees in education who allowed me to pick their brains like a starved zombie in my quest for knowledge. Allowing ample time to discern was what I ultimately needed to make sure the best decision was being made, but that’s not always the case for everyone. I know that some decide to homeschool on a whim and it works out for them.
  • You don’t need to be smart to homeschool. I am a living example of this. I put homeschooling on the same plane as learning the Faith alongside my kiddos. I committed to learning the Faith more seriously as my oldest two were learning. I learned {and still do learn} something new each day. What you need most is the resolve to put that ego on the shelf and commit to learning. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about English by sitting with my son and going over lessons together.
  • Ignore the naysayers. This one is tough, especially if opinions come from people who you rely on for support. It’ll happen at some point or another. Someone is going to give you their unsolicited opinion on the matter. You and your spouse need to be united in this decision so that you can back each other up when the conversations come up that undermine your family decisions. Worst case scenario? Put on your I look like I’m listening eyes and go to your happy place.
  • Nurture yourself through community. Community is so very important and crucial to formation of our children. Groups, and especially homeschool ones that focus primarily on support are going to be very nurturing. I see this in action in online groups I own and participate in. I like and encourage members to put aside their idea of “right” vs. “wrong” when it comes to the grey issues of the Faith and focus on using the word friend when talking to each other. It’s harder to “right fight” when you are more invested in the friendship. Once you have friendship and respect in lockstep, you can weather conversations that might normally derail into the abyss of controversy.
  • Don’t suffer in silence. Sometimes life will take its toll and even the most seasoned homeschool momma will fall into spells of doubting her capability, maybe having children who are special needs and require more than you feel you can handle, or even falling into depression. Though we can find solace in knowing that suffering has purpose, it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time! There is nothing wrong with seeking out help when needed, or breaking through the fog of depression by talking with others. Silence can magnify the problem, sometimes making things feel worse than they are. If you find that you are struggling with something, pick a trusted friend, priest, or therapist and start the road to healing.

For some more great suggestions, I am going to send you over to Jen’s blog post on a few things she needs to remember this school year. Enjoy!

Categories
Shiela

Lose 20 Pounds by Christmas

I know what sells magazines.  Tell people how they can look and feel better than their neighbor as defined by our secular and materialistic media.  And, if you do want to lose 20 lbs by Christmas, you can.  There are about 2,000 different diet plans that will get you there.  The keys to success are setting goals, having accountability, eating less, and moving more.  It’s not rocket science.  But, I did not really want to write a post on weight loss tips.  What I wanted my title to read is, “How to get closer to God by Christmas.”  How do we get closer to God?  Closeness to God is difficult to quantify, but I think we can use the same approach to spiritual well-being as we do our physical well-being.

 

First, we can set spiritual goals.  Goal setting helps us to be mindful and intentional in our behavior.  Have you ever set a spiritual goal?  What would that look like?  A good goal is both measurable and achievable.  For example, I will do spiritual reading for 20 minutes each morning for 2 weeks.  Reading daily for 20 minutes might be achievable for some, but not for others.  So, know your abilities and  limitations.  Once you achieve this goal, you can reflect on your experience by asking yourself if you feel that your faith is strengthened.    We will face many challenges to our faith everyday.  Setting spiritual goals will help us to be better prepared to accept those challenges.  Moreover, if you set apart a time to think about discuss, and write your goals, you will be more likely to achieve them.

 

Next, incorporate accountability into your spiritual growth.  You can get your spouse to do this with you.  Or you can ask a friend or group of friends to join you.  Being a part of the Catholic Sistas has helped me immensely.  We chat online daily and share ways that we are “dying to self” each day.  In other words, we discuss challenges and sufferings that we are offering up without complaining.  Or, if you want to keep your growth personal and private, you can keep a journal and check off each time you make your goal. The journal can also be a place to record your thoughts about your spiritual journey.
Families can set goals, too.  My family would like to get together to say the rosary.  But, often, life gets in the way and days and weeks pass without a family rosary.  However, if we set a goal together as a family, one that is measurable and achievable, then, we are much more likely to sit down together.  A daily family rosary with five kids, two of whom are toddlers, is not achievable for us.  However, we can gather at least once a week, perhaps on Sunday evenings, to say a family rosary.  If we do this with success for 2 weeks, then maybe we can start gathering twice a week.  Kids are great for accountability.  They know that gathering for the rosary is a special family time and they will begin to remind you and request a family rosary.  I know, because my son often reminds us.

 

Eat less and move more?
Well, that doesn’t apply to spiritual growth, directly.  But, you can certainly sin less and do more works of mercy. How do you sin less?  First, start with a clean slate.  Make a thorough examination of your conscience.  Then, go to confession, as James says, “Therefore, confess our sins to one another”  We can always just bow our heads and pray.  But since Christ instituted the sacrament of confession by saying, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained,” we know that to be the most pleasing way to confess our sins.  Therefore we will be absolved of all our sins and receive sanctifying grace.  At this time, we can pray that we avoid those same sins in the future.  Set a confession goal, too.  My family makes it a goal to go once per month.  Frequent confession is the key to sinning less.

 

Increasing works of mercy is another way to grow closer to God.  And, goal setting will help you achieve this.    The 40 days for life campaign starts today.  This is a wonderful work of mercy that will increase your faith, grow closer to God and help the most innocent members of our human family.  My daughter and I participated in the Spring.  It was a wonderful thing to share with her and to be able to instill in her not only the value of every human life but also her role in protecting life.  And, we enjoyed the fellowship with others who were working towards the same personal and community goals.

 

Having accountability partners will also make it more likely that you will do more works of mercy.  My husband and family are also my accountability partners.  We have a family friend who is in a nursing home.  And, if we do not set a goal and schedule a visit, life gets in the way.  And before we know it a week goes by, or a month or several months before we realize that we have not visited our friend.  We cannot let that happen.  If we do achieve our goal, we not only please a friend but also and we find ourselves in compliance with Christ’s greatest commandment, to love one another as He loves us.

Of course, I might want to think about those weight loss goals, too.  I mean, what is Christmas without cookies and candy canes? It might be good to make a little exta room for all that yumminess without feeling too guilty.
What are you doing to increase your faith?  What goal can you or your family set that will inspire others in their spiritual growth?