Stop shoulding on people!

I am probably the one-millionth blogger to write a post on this subject. This is not an original thought. The title line is often a plea to “stop shoulding on yourself,” by saying no to things you are constantly feeling you “should do” when they aren’t right for you. Or something like that. You understand.

Scrolling YouTube in search of an entertaining BuzzFeed food video (there are so many!), I noticed the thumbnail for a “clean your house in thirty minutes,” video and it reminded me of tips I’ve gotten from friends or online about keeping my house clean. My mind wandered and I thought about cooking and how apparently if I was a serious cook, I “should” totally have my own garden. I could hear friends or acquaintances saying it in memory – “Oh, you should totally have a garden! Your kids would learn so much responsibility!” And then everything else. I “should” do the _______ diet plan because it works so well and it’s not even that hard to follow. I “should” do something different with my savings because what I’m doing now isn’t good enough. I “should” get a certain curriculum for my kids because it’s just so amazing. On and on and on.

I will admit that sometimes these well-meaning friends and acquaintances “should” me because I have mentioned that we’ve hit a roadblock with learning and need to figure things out, I’m having a hard time losing my baby weight or I would love to garden but just don’t feel like I have the time. I know mentioning these things sounds like an opening for advice but sometimes it’s better not to go there. I try not to complain because I know it’s an open door for opinions but I also attempt to be honest about where I’m at and admit that my life isn’t perfect.

I’m getting better at owning my decisions. I’ve been married for thirteen years, and I’ve been a mother for twelve. I’ve decided that a garden is just not something I can invest in right now. I have seven kids and going to the gym (or doing a DVD workout) and being on a diet of any kind, let alone one that requires me to prepare my own separate meals, is just not something I can do without sacrificing my sanity. My house is NOT going to be perfectly clean – ever. A little bit of clutter is at least a semi-permanent fixture in my home.

I have a suggestion (not a “should”). If you feel tempted to tell a friend that they “should” do anything other than have a wonderful day, try using a question instead.

“Have you considered having a small garden and letting the kids do all the work?”

“Have you thought about the _____ plan to lose some weight? It worked really well for me.”

“Have you heard of the _____ method of decluttering? Maybe that would help.”

Etc.

It is a much gentler method and even if the answer is, “No,” down the road if she’s struggling with the issue again, she’ll remember a gentle response from you instead of a “should” that might make her question her decision or her abilities.

I believe that we can all help each other out by sharing ideas and experience, but we don’t always know what the other person is going through and how our “shoulds” might come across.

 

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Combating “never enough” and getting unstuck

On Saturday night, I explained to Mike that I feel stuck in everything right now. I know I need to make changes in so many areas, but I lack motivation to get started. I know how to make changes but I can’t seem to take the first step. I’m stuck.

So when our pastor preached yesterday on declaring our connection to God by speaking out Acts 17:28, “In Him we live and move and have our being,” it struck a chord. He said that by declaring this connection, we can combat “fix it myself,” mode. And really, that’s what I’ve been in and why I’ve become so thoroughly stuck. You can only struggle to fix it yourself for so long before you burn out. And when you’re trying to fix every aspect of your life because all of it feels so screwed up, you will have a hard time succeeding on your own.

When we declare the connection we have to the Father, we begin to slow down – we stop rushing to and fro trying to get it all done and figure it all out. We have a choice in front of us again instead of being driven to fix everything. We turn ourselves back to face Him when we make this declaration.

Our pastor also talked about interrupting our “natural thinking” – something I would take a step further and often call, “thoughts planted by the enemy” – with God’s Word. When I gained freedom six years ago, it was because I learned how important it was to take my thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and started to practice that. It’s something I have not been great at for awhile now, though.

Yesterday afternoon after a few “aha!” moments in church, I watched the movie “Embrace” – a documentary about body image. There is a lot I could say about it but the message I took away was that we waste so much time thinking and worrying about how our bodies look. This has been more important to me than how my body feels, which really doesn’t make sense. I want my body to feel good and that probably means making some changes to my diet and how often I exercise. But the main goal should always be health, not looking “good” by the standards of western society.

This morning, I got my first email from No Sidebar, a minimalism ecourse. And instead of giving me a challenge on the first day to go through a closet or pare down my collection of kitchen appliances, it pointed me to three posts about being enough and challenged me to simply say “I am enough,” to myself ten times throughout the day. I have written and deleted more than one blog post on the subject of not feeling like I’m ever enough. Not enough in the areas of parenting, marriage, housekeeping, physical health, etc. And the point here is not that I should stop changing because I am enough, but that who I am is enough. I can change my habits and improve but it’s not about changing the core of who I am, but what I do. And I know deep down that I cannot do it all at once, no matter how much I wish I could.

I always imagine that making new rules to follow will change everything. Buying a new journal to write in every day, tracking everything I do (or eat), using my planner religiously. But in reality, nothing ever really changes because my motivation is all wrong.

I cannot deny the power of all of these things coming up in the last two days, particularly since I had that initial conversation with Mike on Saturday. It all works together and motivates me to think about change in a different way. To realize that it won’t happen all at once, that it’s going to take hard work but most of all, peace as I walk through it, not drivenness. And knowing that I’m not making change to be enough, but that I am already enough, so I have what it takes to make these changes successfully.

Table Time

For lack of a better term, borrowing from what friends call theirs, we have started having a bit of time at the table together every day. I want to keep it up because so far, it’s actually a positive change for us. My boys have been just a little bit more interested in learning lately and I’m trying to run with that while giving Jenny time to do a few more things that might be requested by her teacher. Yesterday everyone did their own thing – Jenny working on various things, Ben reading a book (the only book he says he can read), Erik and Elias working on printing, Sam tracing in an Usborne wipe-clean book and Oliver moving back and forth from one activity to the next. Today we did an animal facts game. I read the facts on half a card and the kids had to guess which animal it was. Ben got five right and each of the three oldest got ten. It was fun and low stress and didn’t feel overly structured.

The fact is, we have structure but very little of it has been devoted to learning. Kids get up, have breakfast, the kid of the day has their two hour computer turn and usually a few others watch or help them. After that, they clean up the designated room in the basement, have lunch and start their one and a half hour turns on the tablets and/or Xbox. This means most days, they only have an hour and a half of personal screen time and some days they have two hours more. A movie is watched occasionally by one or all but generally they spend any other free time they have making up games, playing cards, Lego and every so often reading. With the recent push to get Erik and Ben reading and the start of my Usborne selling (and therefore buying), there has been an increased interest in books. But really, by the end of every day, I found myself wondering if they really would catch up. Or even start pursuing learning more as they got older. Or would it be like this every day? So two nights ago I had a sudden inspiration to ask them what they thought of a daily time at the table doing “schooly” things. It was a mixed response but we tried it out anyway. I have no desire to start traditionally homeschooling but I have toyed with the idea of enrolling Sam next year which would mean reporting to a teacher (and increased funding for him). A little bit of routine in this area would make it a lot easier to do that without stress.

Sometimes change is necessary and good. Sometimes it’s also hard. This change is likely going to be harder for me than my kids, though.

On leaving the house..

Am I considered to be a hermit just because I don’t like going out with seven children in tow?

Or because I love my home and enjoy being here?

I also love people and welcome visitors so maybe that answers my question.

I’m not a hermit. I’m a wimp.

Anyway, homebody is a much kinder title.

Getting back on the horse

Or something like that.

Last night it just occurred to me that maybe I ought to start blogging again. Or at least allow my imaginary readers to catch up with us. There have been a lot of changes in the last few months.

Back in December, I posted a video announcement of the anticipated arrival of our sixth baby. I am now 32 weeks pregnant (tomorrow, technically) and things are going swimmingly. I had a week of bad foot and ankle pain but that seems to have calmed down. At the moment, I’m enjoying the rhythmic bouncing of my belly as this baby has hiccups again. Everyone else is doing well – playing Lego when they don’t want to be outside and jumping on the trampoline, playing with water, etc. when the weather is nice. What a blessing the beginning of summer is!

We are nearing the end of birthday season with just Erik’s birthday left in about a week and a half. Sam turned two, Ben turned four and Jenny turned nine, all in the last five weeks. Oy. Erik’s birthday party will be the last in this house BECAUSE….

 

WE SOLD!

 

That’s probably the biggest update and will only be surprise if you’re not my friend on Facebook or otherwise communicating with me online or in real life. So, maybe like one or two people? Maybe..?

Something like two months ago, I finally decided to be bold enough to express how important it was to me that we move ASAP so that we might have a shot at moving before this baby is born. We painted and painted and painted…and painted. And then we called a realtor when we only had one last project to do – putting in new baseboards and trim. In the fall, we assumed we could list our house for about $210,000 or so. With some changes in assessments and other things going on here, when the realtor came on May 5th, he said he figured we could list for $235,000, based on a comparative market analysis. We made a plan to meet eight days later and do the paperwork to get it listed. We then enlisted the help of Mike’s dad and our brother-in-law to come the following weekend to get the trim work done. Once that was done, Mike and I caulked and cleaned and painted trim and then cleaned and organized and decluttered a bit more before our scheduled meeting. On May 13th, Dan (our realtor, who the kids insist on calling by his full name – Dan Petersen) came again and told us that due to some other changes in the market and a house nearby selling for what had previously seemed an unreal amount of money (600 square feet for $253,000?! With a shop, but still..), we would be able to increase our list price. So we were thinking maybe by five or ten thousand max. Nope, we listed for $255,900. Crazy. The next day, he came to take pictures for the listing, put up the sign (hooray for being official!) and told us not to expect too much too soon. The next afternoon around two, he called and said someone wanted to see the house at six. SERIOUSLY?! Deep cleaning commenced and a few hours later, he told me that it was actually two different people back to back who wanted to see it. So we cleared out and hoped for the best.

Late that night, a little more than forty-eight hours after signing papers and days before the listing ever made it online, we got an offer on our house. We countered, they countered, etc. until we agreed on $251,000 on Friday afternoon. Sign up to accepted offer in two days. At this point, we hadn’t even looked at houses or thought about buying because we thought we’d have a long wait before getting an offer. That Saturday, well-meaning friends and family were telling us that we had better be in a hurry and get looking or we were going to end up without a house. Well, we had faith that the right thing would turn up at the right time, that God would provide just the right house for us. And then we settled in to wait and look cautiously without getting ahead of the sale of our house. Our realtor actually wanted to wait until the last week in May just to look because our buyers were first timers and the risk of hold ups was a bit high.

The following morning (four days after the sign went up in our front yard), I was looking at Facebook and noticed that a friend had shared the link to a listing that she thought I might be interested in. I looked and was impressed with the pictures, number of rooms and location (although I didn’t know the exact address at the time). The price seemed to be at the high end of our limit but I figured I would at least email Dan and let him know that we were interested. Within five minutes, I got a text from him asking if we would like to see it that afternoon. This was a total surprise as we thought he would suggest we wait and also because we didn’t ask to see it, just expressed some interest. We said we would look at it, figuring it would just be the first in a long line of houses we would see before finding the perfect place.

During church that morning, I realized that this house was not only in a desirable location, but actually about a minute down the street from our church. Mike’s parents live a few blocks away from there making them about a seven minute walk away. I got just a little more excited at that point. We went that afternoon and liked what we saw. A lot. Dan figured that the only reason we were able to see it before it got snatched up was because it was a long weekend, meaning that other realtors from that real estate agency (not the one Dan is with) had not yet seen the listing. It had actually only listed on the day we accepted the offer on our house, only two days before. He also thought it might be around $10,000 less than market value for the area. We asked about thinking on it for a bit but he figured if we did that, we would miss our chance. So we put in an offer. They countered late that night and we came to an amount we could manage.

Then we waited. And waited. Waited for our buyers to show evidence that they were doing anything, waited for an inspector to go look at the house we wanted to buy and one to come here. Finally it all just happened, all at once last week. On Friday, the inspector looked at our house and found some damage under the house. But even that turned out to be no big deal – easily fixed without gutting the bathroom like the buyers thought they would have to do. We agreed to fix it on our own dime before we move out and that was enough for the buyers.

SO, all that to say that in the space of four days, we both accepted an offer on our house and had an offer accepted on the house we are buying. In the span of three weeks, we went from no sign of selling to sold signs on both yards. And in thirty-seven days, we will move. Same town, only eight minutes from where we live, but within walking distance of our church, Mike’s parents and three of our homeschool friends. It will cut Mike’s drive to work in half and he will be able to walk in twenty minutes if he wants to. Yes, it’s going to cost us more every month but it’s also a house we can stay in for a long time if we need to. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and almost three times the square footage of this house (we will go from just under 800 to almost 2400). The kitchen looks out towards the street, the driveway is concrete and it is south facing which means warmth in the winter but not too much in the summer. Much to our kids’ delight, it even has a playhouse in the backyard. We are so blessed!

So then there’s the other stuff. We’ll be moving one day after I hit full term. I’ve also been potty training Sam which means in the middle of packing, I’ll be keeping an extra eye on him. I’m thankful for the nice weather and a big backyard here to keep the kids busy most of the time, and for a thirteen year old homeschooled neighbour boy who comes to hang out with them almost every day. We also have friends with trucks and strong arms and shouldn’t have any trouble moving when the time comes. Most of the packing will have to wait for the last week as I already packed almost all the non-essentials before we put the house up for sale. I imagine we’ll be eating out just a bit come July. 🙂

There’s more to our life, of course, but at the moment, pregnancy and moving/house selling have definitely been taking up most of our brain space. And we’re so excited that after almost nine years in this little house, we will be moving on to something bigger and better!

Time to pack..

Last night, Mike and I sat down and talked about the house, what still needs to be done and what our goals are for selling. We divided up the things left to be done, inside tasks in the winter months (which here is until May) and outside after that. July is marked, “Put house up for sale.”

I have one word here: YES!!!!!!

We bought our house after eighteen months of marriage, when we had only one baby girl who wasn’t yet mobile. We were living in an apartment underneath a couple who screamed all the time and in a building that perpetually smelted like marijuana. We were thrilled to leave.

But now, seven and a half years and four busy little boys later, 768 square feet is not working so well any more.

I’ve wanted to move for years now but last spring we made a firm decision that 2013 was the year. So here we go! Time to pack all the non-essentials and make this little house seem more spacious so it will actually appeal to buyers. It is exciting but admittedly daunting.