Featured

15 Easy New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

We are halfway through January and (with all the spikes in COVID cases) and the holiday hullabaloo behind us, perhaps you have forgotten about New Year’s Resolutions.  It can be easy to get lost in the fast-paced world of life and then feel like you are already behind. 

Not to worry.  I have compiled some of my top 15 favorite resolutions I have done (and some I continue to do) to help inspire you and your family to live a more animated life.  Many of these are simple, measurable goals that won’t leave you feeling guilty at the end of the month (or next year).

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

1. Read a new book each month: This is a great one to do alone or with your spouse or friend.  It is also a measurable goal and easy to do. Find new books that interest you and read them.  I like to read with my hubby before bed.  This is a great way to be intimate with each out and have a date night for free.  Or, I have also enjoyed book clubs.  Clubs are a great way to meet new friends and get out of the house.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2. Do something creative each month: This is a fun one.  I have found using a subscription service to be helpful.  Monthly getting a box of something new and creative to do brings a little more joy to the mailbox and the house.  I then use what was created to decorate my house.  Cratejoy has a ton of subscriptions for all ages. 

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

3. Discover one new place each month: We all get into the habit of eating at the same places, going to the same places, and doing the same things.  This is great for those of us who like routine.  But, life is not routine (as much as I wish kit were sometimes).  It is good for us to shake things up.  So go out and explore your neighborhood or the world for that matter.  Try something new and make some new memories.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

4. Sleep better: This is one I try to do all the time.  Sleep helps us function better during the day, have better relationships, think better, and so much more.  Sleep is also what a lot of kids and teenagers struggle with.  For some great steps on how to help with this, check out this blog on 10 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep.

5. Exercise more:  I know, this sounds like every other resolution you have heard.  And you would be right.  But, let’s face it, we all work in front of screens, socialize in front of screens, get entertained in front of screens.  Our bodies were not designed to just sit.  Our bodies thrive on movement.  We get endorphins, are happier, and look nicer in that swimsuit (summer is just around the corner) or jeans.  But this doesn’t have to be a do-or-die goal.  Make it simple.  Just plan to incorporate a walk after work with dogs, or a run in the morning with your son, or just get on YouTube and enjoy a quick 25–60-minute workout. Make it a social thing and do it with a friend. 

6. Eat better: I love food.  I also like a healthy family.  Gut health affects brain health.  Gut health effects are particularly strong for those with neuro and sensory needs.  We have learned how to incorporate healthy (on a budget) and enjoy really good food. The more colorful our plate the yummier our food tastes.  Many of our daily recipes we use for entertaining as well and hear only “oo’s” and “awes.” Need help getting started?  Check out these simple recipes

7. Do something new each month: Sometimes I feel like I get in a rut.  The best way to get me out of a rut is to try something new.  Sometimes this is a new experience altogether (new food, new museum, etc.), but it can be as low-key or extreme as you wish.  I know someone who used this resolution to give him the guts to go sky diving and another who used it to travel the world.  Just recently, I did this by helping replace our stove range. It can be simple and little or something you need to get done on a budget or something big and grand. Enjoy.

8. Monthly family night: Life gets busy fast. With sports teams, music lessons, study sessions, games, and friends, it can seem like your child is a roommate (who doesn’t help with the bills) the older they get. Take the family back.  We like a daily mealtime together. But once a day over dinner (sometimes breakfast) is not enough.  We like a monthly family night when we play games, watch movies with popcorn, or roast marshmallows by the fire.  This is especially great when hubby is on swing shifts or 14-hour day shifts.  We can plan a time together and not feel like it is crammed into the schedule.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

9. Self-care:  This is a hard one for me.  My older sister has been encouraging me to do this for years.  As a mom, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself.  Truth be told, I haven’t even had a haircut since 2019!  It is just easier to ensure my family has what they need and want first.  But self-care doesn’t have to be hard or cumbersome.  Have a glass of wine with friends on a Friday night.  I like working out with friends (making friends and getting healthier).  I love going to farmer’s markets and enjoying the sites and smells.  Sometimes there is nothing better than snuggling under a blanket and reading.  The important thing is that you take the time to plan for it.  Because if you do not plan for it, you never will get it.

10. Serve someone else: The season of giving is winding down.  But it doesn’t have to end.  No matter the season, serving someone else is so good for all involved.  Sometimes we just need to get out of our heads and focusing on the negative.  The best way to do this is to serve someone else.  This might mean teaching Sunday School at your church or volunteering with the babies.  Or, it might mean sitting with your elderly neighbor an hour a week and reading to them or learning about their incredible life!  Fear has taken hold the last two years, our elders have survived wars, sickness, and so much more.  Learn and grow from their strength.  Or volunteer at the local elementary school teaching how to read or simply cutting out and printing worksheets for the overworked teacher.    

Photo by wewe yang on Pexels.com

11. 365 days of gratitude: This one is so important to me.  It was a resolution I had years ago and practice I continue.  Gratitude is so important because it changes our perspective and often calms us down (preventing us from doing something stupid).  Being thankful in all circumstances is a great way to not only change your world but the whole world.  If we all just found one thing daily to be grateful for, imagine the difference in attitudes we would have. 

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

12. Monthly Date Night: I love date night!  I covet date night!  Having a date night is hard with a special needs kid.  It is hard for military families who always move.  It is hard for families with multiple kids who just have so much going on.  Date night does not have to be a big deal.  It is there to build and strengthen a relationship with someone you already love.  Here are 12 great date night ideas we use and still keep in budget. 

13. Service Project/Awareness monthly: There is so much pain in the world and so few people know about it, much less do anything about it.  Take 12 months and learn about different issues (local and global).  At the end of the year, pick one that you became passionate about and get involved.  Serve.  Do a campaign of awareness.  Donate.  Just do something about it.  Be the change in the world.

14. Take a Class:  I know, most adults hate school.  That is because we were forced to go to school growing up learning about things we don’t like.  Our kids currently hate it for the same reason.  But learning doesn’t have to be torture.  Take a class with your kids (or just yourself) and learn something new.  Always want to learn a new language? Do it.  Duolingo is a free way to start and see if you like it.  Want to learn a new hobby?  Take a class at Hobby Lobby or Lowes.  Want to be able to make your car repairs?  Take a class at the local community college.  Be open to learning more things. Learning new things is fun and healthy – and can help prevent diseases like dementia.  

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

15. Start letter writing: Screen fatigue is a real thing.  It is happening more and more often in this post COVID world.  Everything is on a screen.  Zoom and Google Chat have taken over our lives.  We like to take a step back, put out real paper and pen and compose a nice greeting or letter to a family member or friend.  This is a great way to keep in touch over a distance and have a keepsake for the kids when they are older.   Try just writing to one person.  Or write to someone different monthly.  It is so wonderful to see what comes back in the mail.  Enjoy.

Whatever you pick for your resolution, I hope it helps bring joy and unity to your household.  May you be covered in Peace, Love, and Joy this year.  May the road rise to meet you and the wind be ever at your back.

Featured

10 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep

We have all been there.  Three AM and you are staring at the ceiling.  The fan spins and you try to count the repetitions.  Sheep have been no help.  Your brain swirls with the thoughts of the crazy that was your day and dread for the day to follow slowly seeps in. 

Suddenly, the silence of the house is shattered by the bouncing bubbly kid in the room down the hall.  Energy pours out of his room.  Joy exuberates from him.  He is excited to start his day…before the sun.

You groan as you turn over.  You know today will be like yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.  Why can’t this kid just sleep?  By the time he is asleep, you finally get a bit of me-time.  But me-time at midnight is never good.  This needs to change. But how?

There is no debate on how badly poor sleep affects us.  Poor sleep can hurt our hormones, performance, and brain function.  It can cause weight gain and increase the risk of disease (1234567). 

But, oh sweet, good sleep, can have incredibly good results.  It can help you eat less, exercise better, have better response times, have more control of your emotions, and increase of thought process (28910).

With New Year’s upon us, perhaps now is a great time to take charge of our sleep to have better success with our other New Year’s Goals.

Speaking from experience, this is exhausting for you, your partner, and your children. Here are ten tips we used to help our son (and ourselves) get on a better sleep schedule.

Photo by Sharad Kachhi on Pexels.com

Reduce blue light exposure during the evening:  Blue light comes from our screens.  We surround ourselves with blue light, especially before bed.  Checking our social media before bed may sound relaxing, but the blue light stimulates us (along with the social media).  So put a stop to screen time at least 30 minutes before bed.  We try for an hour on school nights. No TV, no video games, no phone, no computer.  Instead, use this time to relax and connect face to face with those you cherish the most. Click here for more tips on how to manage screen time.

Photo by Misha Voguel on Pexels.com

Reduce naps during the day/length of naps: I LOVE naps! But, we limit naps.  If we or our son takes a nap, it is usually on a weekend to allow a little breath before scheduled sleep.  When our son was younger, he could take a nap for two hours or more.  We quickly learned this was detrimental.  Now, if he takes a nap, it is limited to 15-30 minutes.  The best way to know you slept enough for a nap is to take your keys (or something else that makes sound) and hold them in your hands.  When you have slept enough for a day nap, you will relax enough the keys will drop and wake you up.  Perfectly refreshed for the remainder of the day without messing up your sleep that night.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Start a pre-bedtime routine: If you have followed me even for a short time, you know how much I love routine.  This is one of my favorite routines.  This is great for executive functioning and calming down for sleep.  We use this simple routine in our house.  After dinner, we brush our teeth, take a shower, and get in PJs.  Then we do a meditation/prayer and story.  This typically takes 30 minutes if done correctly. This routine acts as a mental trigger that the day is ending, and it is time for bed.   

Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time: This one is hard.  I admit.  Especially as more people and commitments claim on your time. Find a time that allows the right amount of time for your child to get enough sleep.  We kept an 8 PM bedtime for our son till he was a teenager.  Then we increased it to 9 PM on weekdays and 10 PM on weekends (unless there was a game/dance/etc.)  And let’s be honest, no good happens after 10 PM anyway.  We also keep a routine wake-up time.  Alarm clocks may be needed for the first few weeks to get the body used to it, but soon you will find you naturally wake up at the same time daily.  This is important even on weekends.  You might think sleeping in on weekends is good, but it can mess you up for the first few days of the week.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Optimize the bedroom: The room is a sanctuary.  It should be a place where you feel safe and comfortable.  The best sleep happens in comfortable rooms.  Here are some things we use to help our family sleep:

  • No screens: There are no screens in our son’s bedroom.  No computer. No phone. No TV.  These produce light, sound, and are an easy distraction once the kid thinks Mom and Dad went to bed.   
  • Blackout Curtains: These are lifesavers.  Two houses we lived in had a streetlight that shone straight into our son’s room.  These curtains helped block that light and create a boy cave for him.  He knew when they were drawn, it was time for hibernation.
  • White Noise/Soft Wordless Music: We lived off a highway in Maryland for years.  You often heard sirens and the like at odd hours of the night.  We learned white noise and wordless music were great for helping our son sleep.  Do kids share a room?  No problem! Try this awesome tool in the child’s pillow and they can listen to their own sound without bothering their roommate.
  • Temperature: A room that is too hot or too cold is prohibitive to good sleep.  The best sleep temperature is about 70° F (20° C).  But the temperature is dependent on your preference.  Test it out. 

Don’t eat before bed: When you are having trouble sleeping, it is tempting to find yourself in the kitchen eating. We often go beyond the warm glass of milk and eat a bowl of cereal or ice cream. Not only is this bad for our waistlines, but it is also bad for our sleep.  Your body uses sleep to restore muscles and systems.  When we eat before bed, we tell our bodies to divert that energy to digestion.  Save yourself and just say no.  I find when I am tempted, a good cup of hot tea is perfect.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Relax before bed: Relaxing before bed helps me and my family fall asleep and stay in deeper sleep longer.  Take a nice hot shower or bath, do some meditation or yoga (or both).  Read an actual book.  The blue light from a Kindle or iPad will be counterproductive.  Need some entertainment? Do some art or adult coloring pages. Take up a new hobby.  Sew. Crotchet. Knit.  There is so much you can do that does not require a screen. Enjoy learning about you and your kids.

Photo by SHVETS production on Pexels.com

Rule out a sleep disorder: This one is so important – especially for those with special needs.  Sleep disorders are real. Take the time.  Talk to your doctor.  Describe the sleep your child (or you) is getting.  Do a sleep study.  They are not scary and can be quite comfortable.  This can be eye-opening.  We learned a lot when we took our son for one.  One eye-opening thing is how fast my son can hit REM.  Once he shuts his eyes; he is practically in REM.  This means he is being charged faster than the average human.  Due to this, he needs slightly less sleep than other kids his age.  Taking with our doctor (who happened to see my son fall asleep in a routine checkup once) was so helpful in starting our path to successful sleep.  

Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Exercise regularly: It is New Year.  You are thinking you will be at the gym five nights a week for an hour or two.  Let’s get real.  That is probably not true. But you should work out regularly.  Take a walk after work and enjoy the outside world.  Do a workout online or in your gym.  Start the day with a workout.  Just, do yourself a favor, and do not work out before bed.  This will increase your adrenaline and prevent the natural melatonin from working. 

Don’t drink liquids before bed:  This is important especially for young ones working on potty training.  This is a great model to use lifelong.  Drinking too much before bed keeps us up or wakes us up at odd hours. Waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom can stimulate your brain enough to prevent you from being able to go back to sleep.  Try to limit the liquids at least an hour before bed.

BONUS: If all else fails, set rules for waking up the house.  This is so important if you have a child like mine who literally needs less sleep.  Here are some of the rules we incorporated that helped keep the rest of the house asleep and the house peaceful:

  • A time when to leave the room: If your child is waking between 3 AM and 6 AM, it might be helpful to get a visual clock and tell them when an appropriate time to leave the room and start the day is.  This helps with the telling of time and teaches family values and compassion.  Different children have different needs.
  • Give activities they can do: If toys are in their room, let them play. Books are a great way to keep them engaged and quiet.  Books do so much more too! We also allow our son to use his electronic drum set, but he must use headphones. 
  • Have a Coffee Rule: We have the One Cup of Coffee Rule.  Even if we are awake, the quiet of the house must remain until the end of the first cup of coffee.  This allows everyone to wake at their own pace and keep the house peaceful in the mornings.

We use these tips for our entire household.  It has changed how we operate, how kind we are to each other, and helps create a productive environment throughout the day.  These are by no means all the tips that can help you. I encourage you to try them.  Use what works for you.  Ditch what does not.

May this year be one full of rest, relaxation, and growth.