Saturday, October 20, 2012

Priorities (Applied)

For now, I’m just making a list of what I’m doing to make sure I keep my priorities straight.
Priority # 1: God.
If I’m not paying attention to my relationship with my Savior, everything else seems to fall apart---so my biggest two actions to make sure I’m staying in touch are:
Reading my scriptures BEFORE I get out of bed.  My phone is my alarm clock in the mornings and I have the Old and New Testaments as well as The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price on the phone as well, so it’s super easy to pick it up and read after I’ve turned the alarm off.  I can just flick through, find wherever it was I left off the last time, and keep reading.  Even if I only read a verse a day, I feel I’ve accomplished something. I have more energy during the day and I am more patient and optimistic.
Morning prayers. I’m pretty good about remembering to get on my knees before bed and offer a prayer, but I’m not so good about starting the day with prayer—but I’ve found that when I do, my days go better.  I’m more patient, I have more energy.  Huh.  That sounds like what happens when I read my scriptures…and I’m all for a double dose of patience and energy!
Priority # 2: Husband.
Right now, I think the best thing I can do to nurture my husband is to go to bed at the same time my he does.  It’s a simple thing, really, but it’s one way to avoid living completely separate lives—and going to bed at the same time gives us a great chance to wind down together, talk, or…well, do other stuff….
Also, taking ten minutes to tidy up the house before Julio gets home, and making sure dinner is ready to eat when he walks in is a good thing for my marriage.  I recently implemented a ten minute cleaning blitz about half an hour before I expect Julio home.  It’s pretty simple, and so basic, I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner.  A tidy house makes for happy people—and who doesn’t love to come home to a neat space? It sets a good tone for the evening. 
Meal planning—or at least dinner planning is a good thing too.  It takes the stress out of trying to figure out what we’re going to eat and gives me a chance to plan for the evenings when we’ll be gone all day (crock pot!) or gone in the evenings (picnic style!)  Julio always comes home hungry, so having dinner ready to go as soon as he walks in makes for a smooth transition from work to home!  Last Sunday evening, I sat down with Ellen (who was in charge of kitchen chores for the week) and we planned dinners together.  She wrote down our menu for the week and posted it on the fridge.  It was wonderful.  Everyone knew what to expect, and I had a visual reminder about what I’d need to prepare on any given day. 
How does cooking and cleaning nurture my marriage? It makes me a nicer person to be around, and frankly, it just makes Julio happy.  I like to make him happy.
Priority # 3: Kids.
I need to spend more face time with each of my kids.  It’s so easy to treat them as a herd.  It’s easy to ignore them or push them away with schoolwork or chores or TV and computer time.  We’re in the car a lot and it’s easy to tune them out via the radio or an audio book or CD. I need to be more intentional in my time with my kids.  They love to be read to—even the big kids.  We need to sing together more—doing it in the car would be great---but of course, I’ll have to start with goofy kid songs to ensure participation!  I definitely need to hug and cuddle my kids more.  I’d like to be the kind of mom that just randomly hugs a kid, but I have to really make an effort to remember to do that.  And when I tell myself “I need to give each kid five hugs today” it gets done.  If I don’t tell myself things like that, it’s easy for me to go all day without really connecting physically—and kids NEED that. My kids love it when I hug them, and they behave better and act happier when I “randomly” grab one of them and hug them and say, “You know, I think you’re a great kid and I’m glad you’re mine.”  I mean it when I say it, too—even if only ten minutes ago I was harping on someone to get their room clean or quit dawdling over the math assignment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


One of the reasons I chose to homeschool my kids was because I was sure it would make me a better mother—not a “better-than-you” mother, but a “better-more-engaged-person-with-my-kids” mother.
In some ways, I think I have accomplished this—I, with my temper so bad my siblings actually refer to anyone having a hissy fit as “pulling a Marissa,” complete with claw-fingered hand gesture—have learned quite a bit of patience.  I admit, I still pull an occasional “Marissa,” but I have mellowed a LOT.
I have let go of a lot of my tendency to want to control every. single. aspect of the kids’ schooling.  They are allowed a lot of freedom and creativity and they are allowed the responsibility of cleaning up after said freedom and creativity.
I have learned to laugh.  This one came a little slower than the other two—but I’m much better now at finding the humor in less-than-humorous situations. (After I pull a Marissa.)
In other ways, though, I’ve realized I need some crucial work.  We are always on the go---I feel pulled in so many different directions.  I am so BUSY.  And I’ve had a few experiences of late that have combined to make me realize that “busy” doesn’t equal “important.”  I have a tendency to think it does.  When people ask me what’s going on in my life or what I’ve got going on for the week, I rattle off my list of “to-do’s” and “to-go’s” and I FEEL important---and that feeling carries me for awhile through my days.
But here are my recent experiences that made me realize that busyness does not equal importance:
It is fairly normal for me to try to cram my preparations for my Sunday School class into a Saturday night or even a Sunday morning before church. I skim the lesson, look for the main points and main scriptures and wing it in class.  Sometimes this works fine.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But—I’ve had enough “works fine” classes to keep me going with what I know are lousy preparation techniques.  So, in cramming on Saturday night to prepare for my Sunday School lesson, I read 3 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon.  In this chapter, Jesus comes to the people in the Americas and begins to teach them.  He explains who He is, why He is come, and lays out the basic principles of His gospel—faith, baptism, repentance, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. As I was skimming, it hit me that this is probably THE most significant thing I’ve EVER read.  I went back and really read the chapter.  And I was overwhelmed with the love Jesus has for me. And then I realized how precious the scriptures are—how much hope and love and peace are in them, and how now I just didn’t have time to really dive into the scriptures for myself in time for class, much less for the teens in my class.  Why had I not soaked this up sooner?  Why hadn’t I been reading and learning and absorbing the scriptures every day?
Last week, I spent a few minutes with an elderly couple that I just adore.  I hadn’t seen them in a while and just dropped in between the kids’ lessons and dance class.  We had a nice visit, but I kept sneaking peeks at my watch. My friends noticed and commented on how busy I am.  I agreed and launched into my list of things going on that day.  They listened quietly until I’d finished, and then my friends spoke, “Well, we sure miss seeing you and the kids.  But we understand, you’re busy.”  There was sadness in their tone.  I didn’t know how to address their comments, and it was time to go pick up my big kids from their piano lesson.  So, I hugged my friends and headed out.  But their words—and their tone---stayed with me. Why did they make me so sad? 
My five year old has been asking me every day for the last week for cuddle time. But every time he asked, I was in the middle of something important—I was wrist deep in pizza dough, or updating the announcements for a homeschool group I’m a part of, or trying to read through my Sunday School lesson.  My boy made himself a nest of blankets in his room, where he likes to sleep (why he won’t sleep on the brand new, awesome double bed mattress we just bought is beyond me.) Anyway, he wanted me to come snuggle with him in his nest.  He had arranged his pillow and his collection of blankets just-so for me.  After days of him pestering me, I finally went to cuddle with him in the nest. I admit, I went more to get him off my case than because I was looking forward to laying on a lumpy bunch of blankets with a wiggly little boy.  But as I angled myself down next to him, he looked me in the eyes, and said through his thumb in his mouth, “I love you mommy, thank you for cuddling with me.”  I melted.   We had a nice long snuggle and we both fell asleep, my littlest boy curled up against me, with his head on my arm. How could I have put this sweet little guy off for days?
Last Friday was the first day in a long time that we haven’t had somewhere we had to be—there was NOTHING going on—no classes, no shopping to do, no errands to run.  And it was WONDERFUL.  I spent the day with the kids reading to them, taking a walk, hanging out on the couch with the big kids while the little ones played with blocks and Barbies and Spider Man toys.  I rocked the baby.  I haven’t rocked her since I quit nursing (don’t get me wrong, I’ve held her lots and lots, but not sat down in the rocking chair and just—rocked.) Usually, she naps in the car as we’re running around town.   She was dozy---her eyes were fluttering, she was sucking her bottom lip, and she was twirling the hair on top of her head with her fingers.    As soon as she was in my arms, she konked out. At first, I was tempted to just take her to her crib, so I could get something else done—but on the way to her room, I realized I didn’t want to put her down.  I walked over to the rocking chair, sat down, and began rocking her.  I was flooded with love for her—and for all my kids—and for all the time I spent rocking them—before life got so busy.  How did I let this sweet, tender activity with my baby girl get away from me?
Last night, after the kids were in bed, I sat down with Julio while we ate a late night meal together.  We were catching up with each other, and I told him about all the projects I had going on, all the places and classes the kids had to be at, all the things that were making me feel a little crazy and that were stacking up.  He got this look on his face---the one where he wants to say something that he’s pretty sure is going to upset me, but that we both know I need to hear.  (I HATE that look.)  Then he says:
“I’m worried that you’re spreading yourself too thin.  I’m afraid you’re getting so busy that the most important things are starting to be neglected.”
I couldn’t even disagree with him.  Had I not just been complaining that we weren’t getting through all the schoolwork and the house was a mess and I felt like I was hardly even making eye contact with the kids each day?
He gave me that look again, briefly surveyed the kitchen.  “That, too, I guess, but I don’t mean that stuff.”
I thought back to cuddling Blythe and rocking Evelyn.  “I know,” I said.  “I’m with the kids all the time, but I’m not really present with them!”
Julio smiled a sad little smile at the tabletop.  He wasn’t talking about the state of the house, the kids’ education, or even the kids themselves. 
I am so stupid. He meant him.  He meant US.  I was starting to neglect him.  I was starting to neglect us.
I can’t even express the sorrow I felt, realizing I was leaving my husband, my best friend!  out of my life.  My busy, busy, stupid-busy life.
We had a pretty significant heart-to-heart talk that reminded me what an amazing, long-suffering, good-humored, kind, affectionate, intelligent, astute, compassionate man I had the good fortune to marry.
How do you know when your priorities are out of order? When you start thinking “busy” means “important.” 
Well, I’m taking back what is truly important. My God.  My husband.  My kids.  These are what matter most.  These are the most important things.  THESE are the most important things.
Tomorrow, I’ll post what I’m doing to reorder my priorities from the “busy” things to my most important things.