Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Habits

I love the start of a new year. I know it isn't really any different than any other day, but symbolically it is. The first few weeks of the year always feel so fresh to me, and I've found it to be the best time for me to make any changes that I need to make. I don't do New Year's Resolutions, but I do evaluate myself and work on establishing new habits. On the list for this year:

1. Tighten up the boundaries in our home. If there's one thing I've become more and more aware of on this mothering journey, it's that kids feel safer and function better if they live within the healthy limits of secure boundaries. Honestly, I find that I am more secure within healthy boundaries, too.

So what do those tighter boundaries look like?

Holding to Routines

I have morning routine charts posted in the kitchen and in the kids' bathrooms. The charts are very simple...a picture and a few words for each task. The kids must do their tasks in order. I'm back to being firm about these routines.
1. Up and dressed
2. Make bed
3. Hair and deodorant
4. Care for animals
5. Breakfast
6. Brush teeth
7. Clean up your trail (in other words, do a quick pass through the house and put away your stuff)

After school routine
1. Shoes put away
2. Bring mom your school folder
3. Clean and put away lunchbox
4. Snack
If it is your laundry day, start your load
5. Throw away trash
6. Homework
Cleaning chore (MWF only)

Evening routine
1. Care for animals
2. Dinner
3. Kitchen chore
4. Tidy your room
5. Shower and brush teeth

On weekends we have a routine, too. After the regular morning routine is done, the kids each do their cleaning chore. All week long I collect items that have been left out and put them in a box. The kids must do extra cleaning chores to redeem their boxed items. One chore gets three items out of the box. One Saturday per month we go out and do a barn and coop cleaning. After that, everyone is free to play.

Sticking like glue to these routines makes more successful kids. And less stressed Momma. Having the routines posted makes it easier, too, because when I see someone out of line, I just send them to look at the chart. No nagging.

Healthy Eating

We always are pretty healthy eaters, but we tend to get sloppy over the Christmas season. January is always a great time to get things cleaned up and back onto a healthy track. For us, this means severl things.
1. I am back to gluten free for me. I'm gluten intolerant, and my doctor suspects I have celiac disease. I opted to forego testing and just assume I have celiac. I was gluten free for three years and it transformed my health. When I was pregnant with Sweet Pea, all I could keep down was dry sourdough toast. My intent was to go back to gluten free eating after Sweet Pea was born, but I never did. Today is Day 3 of no gluten, and I already notice a difference in my skin. Awesome sauce!
2. For the rest of the family, it's back to only one sweet per day. Maybe it's a piece of candy after school, or syrup on pancakes with breakfast, or a soda if we go out.
3. It's also increasing our veggie load at dinner. It's so easy to boost the veggies, often by doing something as simple as adding grated carrots or zucchini to a meatloaf, putting pureed spinach in spaghetti sauce, or requiring three extra bites of broccoli. If a kid eats three extra bites of veggies at every dinner, that's 21 bites more of veggies per week!
4. For me, it's getting off my lazy butt and fixing a better snack for the kids after school rather than stocking a basket with Cheez-It pouches. It's very easy to spread peanut butter on five pieces of whole grain toast, or to throw yogurt, banana, and frozen strawberries into the blender.
5. Consistent meal planning is key. I'm always good at this, and I'm right back to it after two weeks of flying by the seat of my pants. Having a crock pot and an Instant Pot help tremendously in following through with cooking at home.

Cutting Back on Electronics

We're not an electronic-friendly home. We have a TV (Netflix only, no cable), a Blu-Ray player, computers, Kindles, and a Wii. But I like for those things to be turned on as infrequently as possible. Here are our electronics rules, back to being enforced after a month of laziness.
1. No TV on school days
2. Paper homework done before electronic homework can be started
3. Weekend Wii time must be earned by reading during the week. For 4th grade and up, they earn 30 minutes of Wii for every hour they read. For the younger kids, it's 30 minutes of Wii for every 30 minutes they read.
4. Computers are for schoolwork only.
5. Kindles may be used only after routines are completed and inspected.
6. All Kindles and computers must be plugged into the charging station in the office at 8:00. The only exception is for Snapper, who is in high school, and often needs to be online later.
7. On weekends, no TV or Wii until weekend chores are completed, and not before 3:00 p.m.

Mommy and Daddy have new rules, too.
1. No social media until the kids are at school.
2. Electronics are shut down during homework time.
3. No phones at the table or in bed.

What are some of your New Year habits or hacks that work for your family? Please comment! I love to learn from others.

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