I've never really done New Years' resolutions. If I realize a change that needs to be made on September 20th or December 12th, I'm not going to wait until January 1st to put it into practice. That said, here are some changes I've decided to put into practice for the new year, and some I've already started on:
1. Dramatically decrease Internet time. It is so easy to blow an hour out the window simply by sitting down at the computer and "checking mail". Checking mail leads to cruising blogs, which leads to checking message boards, replying to posts there, and then researching an insignificant topic, then checking Facebook. Before I know it, I've essentially wasted 60 minutes, with nothing redeeming to show for it. In the week leading up to Christmas, I decided to extremely limit my Internet time to checking email twice a day: first thing in the morning and during the boys' nap time. I think my total Internet time added up to five minutes a day. This doesn't include updating our blog, because I consider that "family archiving" and not a waste of time. So, instead of spending lots of time on the Internet I'm going to:
2. Read more good books. In the past few weeks, I've had a lot of extra time to read books, since I curbed Internet time. Reading good books enriches my life, and the time sitting on the couch during nap time, curled up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a book truly rests my mind and recharges me for when the boys wake up.
3. Research homeschooling methods. Tommy won't start kindergarten-level learning until fall of 2012, but I am already feeling the slight panic of not knowing what sort of education method I'm going to be using with him. During the next year, I hope to talk with experienced homeschooling moms at church about this, as well as research the Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Montessori, and Classical methods to figure out which one more closely fits our household and parenting philosophy. I have a feeling I'm going to end up with a blend of some of them.
4. Meal plan. This one I've already gotten a head start on. I go grocery shopping on Friday mornings and buy a variety of good food that we enjoy: fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and pasta. On Sunday afternoon I go through my stack of favorite recipes and plan meals around the food I purchased for that week. It may seem backwards to plan meals around food I've already bought, instead of buying food for recipes I've already planned, but this is what works for me. I find that I spend a more money if I choose recipes first and then buy the food for them. It's cheaper and more fun to purchase raw ingredients that I already know we like, and then come up with recipes to use it all up.
5. Make my own bread. We have come far since last year with changing the way we eat, and we are eating lots more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But one thing we can't seem to give up is bread. If we can't give it up completely, we may as well learn how to make it ourselves. Healthy bread (rich in whole grains, protein and fiber) goes for a whopping $3.29 at the local grocery store, and we go through about two loaves a week. That's almost $7 a week just for bread! So Mark bought me a bread machine for Christmas and I've been on a mission to find the perfect recipe that Mark and I can agree on: one that is healthy (for me) and still fluffy (for Mark). I'm getting closer every day to finding that Holy Grail of a loaf. Now if we could only get our own dairy cow for all the milk my kids drink in a week...
6. (At the risk of sounding clichéd) Exercise more. The time change and extra precipitation of the season really threw me off this year. During the summer and early fall, we had a good routine where we would take a walk every morning or afternoon either at the local bike trail or through the vineyard across the street. But with the time change, the boys started waking up later in the morning, throwing our schedule off, and then by the time they'd wake up in the afternoon, it was too dark to go for a walk. So now I've planned into our daily schedule a daily walk after breakfast, and I plan to stick to it!
7. Read to the boys 30 minutes a day. I've been depending on random times throughout the day to read to the boys, but this isn't working anymore, especially when we have very busy days. It's recommended that by 3 years old, children should be read to at least 30 minutes a day, and I've been lacking here. So I scheduled 15 minutes before nap time and 15 minutes after nap time to read to them. I set a timer for myself and plant ourselves on the couch to read good books (see sidebar for our current library picks) to them. Ben lasts about 5 minutes before he's off the couch and playing with other things, but Tommy is soaking up our reading time.
8. Read the whole Bible. I'm ashamed to say I've never actually read the whole Bible, even though I've read much of the New Testament several times. I started a "read-the-Bible-in-one-year" plan last January, but didn't get much further than the middle of Exodus. So I picked up where I left off in early November and now I'm already up to Judges. I'm using a chronological plan, which will take me through the Bible in the order the events occurred, instead of the order the books were placed together later by scholars. I plan to read through the whole Bible every year hereafter.
9. Memorize scripture. As with my Bible reading, I got a good start on this early last year, but got away from it somewhere in the middle of the year. I didn't notice a deficiency at first, but months away from constantly dwelling on the word of God has certainly added up. I realize now that failing to subsist on the God's word and committing it to memory has seriously affected how I deal with difficulties. For more information on why memorizing scripture is so important, check out this article by John Piper.