A few years back, I started a year-end review framed by the two questions, “What worked for me this year?” and “What didn’t work for me this year?” (The questions came from Modern Mrs. Darcy; the answers are my own.) Here’s what worked for me this year:
- Leaving the twinkle lights up all year
When we took down all the Christmas decorations last Epiphany, we left the twinkle lights up. They make those long winter nights (and long, dark mornings) so much cozier.
2. Asking, “How can I support you in this?”
I’m a problem solver, and my go-to response when someone tells me they are hurting is always to try to fix things. This might work most of the time for my own problems, but it’s counterproductive as I try to support those around me. The last thing I want to do (especially for my kids) is make them think that they don’t have the resources to find solutions to their problems.
Asking “How can I support you in this?” has been especially helpful with my kids. It shows I trust them to find a solution, and that I have their backs as they figure it out, whether “it” is advanced academic work, dating, mental health, taking up cello, dancing, travel, or balancing school and work.
3. Writing questions down and leaving them up for everyone to think about
This idea comes from Julie Bogart’s book The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning and Life. She suggests writing questions of all kinds on sticky notes, posting them somewhere you’ll see them a lot… and that’s all. She promises that seeing them every day will produce multiple answers and follow-through, even without intentionally revisiting the questions. Our two “how” questions have prompted significant changes in our driving:biking ratio, the trade-in of our larger minivan for a more gas-efficient vehicle, and a reduction in the plastics we bring into our home. (One of our other questions was, “What will happen to Spiderman now that Sony and Disney split?” I’m not saying that they worked it out just because I put it on a sticky note, but…)
4. Listening to audiobooks
I have three different audiobook apps on my phone (two from the library in addition to Audible), and while it’s confusing, using them has made my reading life so much richer.
I have changed our cooking to include many more “bowls.” It has made the challenge of cooking for two vegetarians and 3-4 omnivores easier. (By “vegetarian,” I mean a teenager who won’t eat meat but doesn’t necessarily eat vegetables. By “omnivore” I mean a person who will eat meat but on the whole is just as picky as the aforementioned vegetarians.)
Our bowls are built with a base (salad, roasted vegetables, rice, quinoa, farro or pasta), a variety of toppings (fried eggs, roasted tofu, meat, vegetables, seeds and nuts) and a sauce. My two favorite sources for bowl ideas are Run Fast. Eat Slow and Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow by Elyse Kopecky & Shalane Flanagan. I think it’s the variety of sauces that make this feel like you’re not eating the same thing twenty-one times each week.
- The kids’ cleaning schedule
A few months ago, I told our kids I was frustrated with how much cleaning I was doing, especially when I saw them sitting around having screen time. They came up with a plan and have faithfully followed through with it. It has been a real gift to me, and seems sustainable. I’m trying to be as faithful in using my free time for the writing and studying I was missing.
What worked for you in 2019?