Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sticking to the Plan

I crave structure.

And routine.

And all those other boring words like discipline, and order, and organization.

I'm not perfect at it.

However, I am pretty darn good at sticking to the plan once a system is in place. Once the system is in place. (That's in bold for a reason.)

Without a plan, I falter. Without a plan, my house is in chaos. Without a plan, everyone would leave the house naked.

Don't mistake my planning as a lack of spontaneity. I have improv training. I have a real knack for rhyming and my kids can attest that I turn EVERYTHING into a song. With choreography. In the kitchen.

But there's a time and a place for wacky kitchen musical theatrics. And in order to experience the spontaneity that can be had with a wooden spoon microphone and a colander top hat, one must first have their ducks in a row, or a squiggle, whatever. I recognize the need for a flourish. Point being, there should be some sort of line for all those ducks, whether straight or curvy.

Our home motto is "first things first".

I get really irritated this time of year. For as much as we yearn for the peace that Christmas is meant to afford us, we blow it. Every year. I constantly overhear the list of "to do's" about getting the shopping done, mailing out Christmas cards, baking hundreds of cookies, wrapping, and decorating. Then there are the zillion parties that "must" be attended, and this and that, and so on and so forth. AND YET I also listen to the chatter and read the stories about the desire that one has to find and embrace the warmth and joy of the Christmas season, and am then saddened by the the disappointment one shares when it once again alludes them. "It will be different next year."

Not unless you do something about it.

Christmas has this wacky way of messing with our minds - making us feel as if we "must, must, must" and "have to, have to, have to". The "most wonderful time of the year" turns into the most hectic and stressful time of the year.

It's the same story. Year after year. And it's getting old. I'm tired of hearing all the complaining.

How does our family combat this?

We stick to the plan.

For instance: Harper gets no TV or Wii during the school week. Zane, gets a bit in the afternoon. But in the evenings? Nada for both. Even now, as the networks are showing the beloved Christmas classics, my kids get none of it. I can Netflix or rent these items from the library to be viewed on the weekend. Am I a killjoy? You may think so. But here is where I begin to brag, just a bit, about evenings in our house - even during these weeks leading up to Christmas. For, our evenings are calm. Really, they are. Don't hate me.

After School
Christmas may be a week away, but there is still homework to be done. After a snack, and perhaps a glimpse of what Zane is finishing watching (I told you, I'm not a killjoy), the TV is turned off, and homework is done. Once worksheets are done, and vocab and spelling words studied, Harper can either play with friends, or if it's getting late, we have reading time on the couch.

Dinner is all together. At the table. Sitting down. We pray. We eat. We chat. George usually makes dinner. I know. That's hot.

After Dinner
We read our family Advent devotion, the kids open their Advent boxes, and if there is an art project to accompany the devotion, we settle in the kitchen to do it. Yes, there is glitter everywhere in my kitchen. There is paint on the floor. There is glue on the chairs. But these battle scars are worth it. For I now have a group art project of what we believe the manger looked like the night Jesus is born, two beautiful Stars of Bethlehem, and just last night, the kids designed pieces depicting what they each think angels look like. This is not without a huge mess.

After Devotions
Pajamas. That's right. It might be 7:00, but it's time for pajamas.

After Pajamas
Odyssey on the radio. Bedtime snacks, warm milk with gingerbread syrup for Zane, and tea for Harper.

After Odyssey
Bed. Zane listens to music or a book on CD. Harper gets in bed and reads.

It's 8:30.

We do this every night. The same routine. They know it by heart.

I haven't altered this at any point this month.

Except for last night.

I caved and allowed Harper to play some Wii. When it was time to turn it off, she chose not to. The lure of the next level was just too strong.

She now has no Wii through the weekend.

From now on, Mom is sticking with the plan. However, regardless of the change in routine, Harper also knows that in our house, we "obey the first time".

Routine works for us. Routines work for children. Really. They do.

So, we'll stick with our routine this Christmas season, and will NOT fall prey to all the other "stuff" that zaps our energy and well being during this time of year. I will NOT be a part of the complaining story about "not getting it all done" and being "so behind" with regards to shoveling piles of "have to's" and "should have's" onto our family's Christmas traditions.

You will not be getting a Christmas card from us. Hopefully, you will understand why instead of spending the money on them and the postage, we are donating the cash to those who need it. And rather than using valuable time time to address more than 100 cards, I am enjoying the evening with my family.

You will not find me baking because I "have" to give you something. You may get a plate of cookies, IF, we decide to make it a fun family activity. You won't get them just because I feel obligated. Instead, I'll have you over, and we'll share a meal together.

You will not find any new decorations in my house. Just our simple snowman setup.

You will not find me standing on a long line when I can be home reading, or sitting with a friend over coffee, or having guests for dinner.

You will not find me caving over stress.

You will not find me "shoulding" on myself.

I'm sticking to our plan. And so far, I've not missed one ounce of the Advent season. Have you?

Believe it or not, you can change your Christmas plans. Yes. You can. If not this year, next.

Take a bold step. If it has become too much, admit that it is you who added to the load. And then, change your story next year. It will make for a much happier ending.


Amy said...

After commenting on the other post I thought a little more about your "routine" during this season. I realized I would be TOTALLY stressed out by the crafting! Not just the actual act, though. The purchasing items, frustrated with what I can't find, knowing that I only need 4 googly eyes but they only come in bags of 100. Then where do I store all the leftover stuff? But I know others who also enjoy the mess of crafts and I think that's great.

Cuppa Jo said...

Ah, I don't purchase ANYTHING. We just use what we have in the house - although the kids do get glitter in their Advent boxes.

Really, we color, use markers, rip paper, cut out things from magazines, paint - we've even been known to use toothpicks and empty tp rolls. I don't have a crafting box. But I do gather up odds and ends that can be used for something.

It makes for interesting art.