Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fresh Mud Pie Ingredients.

If you are a hard-core follower of The Mud Pie Makers, then by now you know our goal is to take hold of each day, to create memories, to play with our kids—to attempt to see the world through their eyes. 
It is an ambitious goal.

How do we achieve this on a daily basis? How is this lofty objective broken down in the form of hours and minutes while the world blurs by, while our kids go from diapers to graduation gowns in the blink of an eye?

We often make our resolutions in January.  But for me, Fall is a time to start things new. School starts, everything is in a state of fresh schedules and attempted organization; we are already in the midst of transition. What can we do this Fall to take hold of each day? Are there a few small goals I can set? Can I prioritize and manage my time better to achieve these goals?

In my long, long, long list of “mommy improvements,” I have personally selected two areas of concentration for this Fall. I have really noticed  a weakness in these specific areas already since the school year began—perhaps you can relate.  My own mommy improvement goals are to listen better and to be more a more active parent. Over the course of the past few years, in the busy-ness of life, I have picked up a few bad habits! 

If you are anything like me, it is easy to tune out the white noise that begins early in the morning when we are scrambling to get food in mouths and clothes on backs. The white noise comes in a variety of little voices; they are usually telling me something that can “wait until later” while I remind them to keep chewing or get their shoes on. Later the white noise returns when I'm unloading the dishwasher or even sitting on the floor playing. I am not ignoring my child, but my mmm-hmm responses quickly let my little one know that her long, detailed story of such-and-such boo-boo or his deep explanation of an elaborate Star Wars Lego battle is not quite worthy of my full attention. In fact, I am giving them a mommy version of the blank stare. It's the familiar blank stare they often give me when I am explaining obedience or protocol or why we have to go to bed even though the sun is still out.

Is it possible to calmly squat down to eye-level in these moments, to take two whole minutes to give them my full attention, to listen to these simple but important (to them) stories, knowing that they may not want to share every detail of their life with me before I know it?

Has anyone else fallen into a chronic daily mommy groove that leaves us justifying our time management and hollering at our kids to “stop yelling at each other!” from two rooms away? Back when I only had one baby, I never imagined it could happen to me. I loved spending hours reading smart baby books and singing educational songs and deep cleaning the bathrooms and scrubbing my grout. Now I am lucky to clear laundry from the living room and I'm pretty sure I have a million dollars worth of stock in the Matchbox cars on the carpet.
It takes a great deal of effort to keep it all together.
At the same time, I find myself saying it's impossible to keep it together, so have I stopped trying? It's funny how our goals change with every month that passes as a mom. With all the zillions of blogs and books on organization, home-efficiency and time management, you'd think we could all get our acts together. But honestly, who has time to read it all? Around here, when everyone is scrubbed and brushed and tucked away for the night, I'm completely exhausted. We have more tools to communicate and simplify than ever before, and all we've done is add more things to our to-do lists.

About 5 months ago my husband decided to drop our cable. I'd be lying if I said I was on board with the decision, but in the end it was something we needed to do. At first I went through TV withdrawals. The first few weeks were painful as we attempted to get our little bunny-ear antenna to tune local stations and watch TV online. Eventually Summer came and nothing was on anyway and the days were longer. We went outside more. We read more. Soon I stopped missing it. Soon it became normal to leave the TV off for an entire day. Soon I started thinking back to when we wasted hours every week staring at the screen in our living room.
I don't want to sound like a mommy martyr—suffering with 3 kids AND no Cable! Trust me, I've already watched enough TV to fill up about ten lifetimes, and I'm not saying we'll never have cable again, and yes, we still have a TV in our house.  I guess, for me, the loss of daily lifeless TV viewing showed me many other areas in my life where minutes and hours are wasted. With all the new things we keep adding to our busy lives, are there other pointless things I can remove? Can I find a better balance of the time wasters and non-essentials and cut them out?
I don't want my kids to see me (and mimic me!) as an apathetic person who passively goes about my day because I'm honestly too lazy to just get moving and do what needs to be done. I'm writing this because I am guilty. I'm a very far from perfect mom. In fact, just last week, in my son's first week of school, I inadvertently crashed a PTA Board Meeting (whoops!), then on Friday I sent him to school wearing a hat for hat day, then found out hat day is this Friday.  I make a mess of things on a regular basis.

A Lofty Goal.
We can't just work toward these self-improvement goals for the sake of simply bettering ourselves--shockingly it's not all about me.  This is a familiar verse that puts my mommy days into perspective: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

How does this apply to how I treat my family—specifically my kids. Will I listen to important little stories? Will I become someone who is serving out of the interest of others?  What changes can we make as we head into the Fall, a new year, to make memories with our little ones and take hold of each day?

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