Friday, January 13, 2017

Intentionally Framing My Year

I love a clean slate, that feeling of possibility that a new year affords you as you look ahead and decide what it will bring. I make resolutions and lists, decisions on how many times I'd like to walk the dog (every day) and what bad habits I'm going to throw to the way side (nagging, nail biting, leaving laundry to languish). And then I march bravely into the exciting beyond only to fall flat on my face when I can't make these changes (which has been my case with all of the above resolutions in years past). I'm pretty sure most of us know this feeling. 

In comes the one-word yearly theme. I first heard of this plan through Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and the podcast Happier (to name a few). The one-word theme is the idea that instead of making specific resolutions that are rarely kept that one should create a framework for the year with a single word. It can be all encompassing or very specific (for example "novel" was chosen by her sister to remind her to focus on writing her novel, but could also mean to try novel experiences). Last year was my first attempt at this with the chosen word "generosity." I found that I kept letting myself down in situations where I could have been more generous with money so decided to have this word as my focus. Did I always achieve it? No. Did I go to the lengths that I could have with it? Nope. But I can remember numerous times where I was put in a situation where I might not have spent or given money (or even time), remembered my yearly theme, and pushed myself to be more generous. And each and every time it truly made me happier. I felt less disappointed with myself in these situations and great that I'd made someone else's day a bit better. I have a long way to go, but definitely am now on the kickstart path to keep working on it.

With my first successful one-word year behind me, I was definitely excited to bring another into my wheelhouse. I've been thinking a lot about what I want out of the year, what memories I want to make and what would bring a smile to my face as I look back on 2017 waiting for the New Year's ball to drop. Building and sustaining community is a big one as always, since relationships are my lifeline. Soaking in this time at home with all of my children is another, an opportunity that not everyone gets. There's also learning to focus more on myself and less on others, to take care of my needs so that I'm ready to give my best to those around me. To control what I'm able to and let the rest go. I'd also like to pay off some debts and save more money, with a set purpose in mind for what's stashed away. And working to make decisions more easily is a necessity not just for my sanity but for that of those around me. This looks like a pretty tall order for one word to encompass, but after kicking around a few words, I finally landed on intentionality


1. The fact of being deliberate or purposive.
2. (PHILOSOPHY) the quality of mental states (e.g., thoughts, beliefs, desires, hopes) that consists in their being directed toward some object or state of affairs.

I feel so much hope and potential with this word. I mean, who doesn't want to be deliberate or purposeful in what they do?! How can that not help? That being said, being intentional takes forethought and time, something that I'm not always the best at. But that's what the one-word theme is there for - to help bring awareness and improvement to areas that you feel are lacking. So with my freshly picked intentionality, I thought I should bring some focus to what exactly I hope to work on from the get go.

1. Speak more intentionally. Go into a situation knowing what I want to get from it and figure out if my words will help achieve that. Step back and take a breather before reacting. Learn to leave some things unsaid. 

2. Intentional time with kids. With a household to run and a self to take care of, there is no way that I can give my kids my all all the time. That being said, it's much more important for me to give intentional, focused time to each one of them. This could mean scheduling one-on-one time in with each of them, stopping what I'm doing when possible to go see what they want to show me, giving them 15 minutes of uninterrupted them time and making it clear that afterwards I have to get back to my other responsibilities. I actually went to a parenting workshop last weekend (intentionality in action!) which armed me with more strategies to be intentional and thoughtful in all that I do with them. 

3. Intentional actions for myself. Exercise regularly. Eat well and often. Sleep. Treat myself when I'm craving it. Basically intentional self-care.

4. Intentional use of time. Learn not to overbook. Say "no" when something isn't necessary or when I'm not really wanting to do it. Take control of the mornings (i.e., get up before kids and achieve something, whether home related or heading to Red Canoe to have solo morning time). Have a focus for my time throughout the day so that I know when it will be "productive" but also when it will be relaxed. Downtime is much more enjoyable when you're consciously allowing it, not just falling into it out of laziness.

5. Decision making. Look ahead at what I want out of the situation and try to decide which path will get me there. Remind myself that even if the result isn't what I had hoped, that the decision was made with purpose and intention and that I can't always control the outcome. 

6. Social media and screen usage. Don't get sucked into social media or my phone just because there is a moment of free time. Be intentional in when I check. Have a purpose for using it, even if it is just to take a little escape from my day. Figure out what my overall intention is in having the accounts and work accordingly. 

7. What comes in/stays in our house. Grocery shop with a list and menu in mind. Try intentional decluttering. Don't buy for the deal, buy for the need. Think purchases over when possible, and if they are still on my mind in the future, go for it.

8. Intentional savings. Pay off debts. Set up automatic payments to my retirement account.

Guys, I am SO excited to have this plan! While I know that I will have many stumbles along the way, I do feel that having this overarching theme surrounding me will help guide my choices. None of the above items are specific resolutions, and if I don't achieve them I'll be okay. But if at the end of the year I know that I put more thought and intention into my daily choices and interactions I'll chalk it up as a success.

What about you?! Any New Year's resolutions? Have you heard of the one-word theme before? Tried it, want to try it, have a word already? Or are you the unicorn that makes and doesn't break their resolutions? I'd love all your tips, tricks, and ideas if so! 

Here's to an intentional 2017.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Murrayed Life Snapshot :: 1.3.17

Each day, going through our daily routine, something happens that I realize should be documented. Typically it's a small moment, such as Declan running to the window to check out what truck is making the 87th siren sound of the day or Sybil saying in the hands down cutest way, "I don't 'member", when we ask her what a certain letter is or Tessa simply laughing with all she's got. I notice them in the way that you notice your favorite popular song on the radio, bopping up and down but knowing this tune will come on again within an hour. The thing is, the song will always be replaced by another, and unless you've downloaded it, it may disappear from your memory as ever happened until a few years later when it comes on as you're perusing aisle 12 of the grocery store and find yourself automatically singing along. In similar fashion, last night I sat looking at Declan run to the window (for the third time, during our second attempt at bedtime) and realized that one day this won't happen anymore. That the download needs to happen today, every day, for it to be remembered.  That somehow we've already slipped away from construction trucks as number one focus to police officers and legos and weaponry of every sort. That all of these little moments that happen over and over and over again in our house will one day fade away to other little moments, and that if I don't put them down there are so many that will be gone from memory forever. And ya know, looking back at the blog, I'm so thankful that I took the time to document what at the time seemed so banal, because amazingly the bedtimes and sleep regressions and eating habits and phrases that were SO important have been displaced in my mind. It's amazing, no? That something so all encompassing can actually move on.  So as a gift to myself this year, I'm going to try harder to download these daily songs.

Like Tessa. Five months old. Her life has been the longest five months in the best way possible. The idea that there was ever a time without her face melting smile or chubby finger clasping mine is next to impossible. I soak in our every single day together, because it's so easy and she loves me so much and because I made the choice (and luckily have the option) to be home with her from sunrise to sundown and all the moments in between. So her growth is so hard to see since it's so natural and slow and comes after trying over and over and over again until one day she can do it.

{photo by Declan}

Two days ago she apparently rolled over from back to tummy on the bed for the first time (says Peyton). She tries to sit up with strong ab crunches and can get up almost to her belly button. Her solo sitting is getting steadier and steadier, probably because of the super focused expression that she dons, but she'll still slowly melt over to one side. Her brother and sister make her face light up and there are no arms she'd rather be in than my own, as well as no side she'd rather cuddle up next to for sleep. Cries are rare, but typically come if she's not being fed fast enough. Once food is available she lets out a last little cry and indignant/relieved sigh and takes it all in. She's my first baby who I've gotten to ring the new year in with and was a joy to all around.

Sybil is basically a lovely little firecracker. She is the most opinionated of our children (so far at least) and knows herself inside and out. She gets herself dressed in the morning and has finally accepted that a simple tank top dress in a Baltimore winter isn't quite enough. Each and every time she'll come in with arms spread out saying, "I did ittt!", proudly showing off her tutu, dress, long sleeve shirt combo and typically refusing to put on socks or tights or any leg warming device with an, "I fine, I fine. Iz not cold. Pwomise." She's ditched the two year old class at her school to be with the much older, much freer, 3, 4, and 5 year olds, a move which luckily the school said was the right thing for her. I don't think there's been a day that I've picked her up in the same clothes that she arrived in as she's traded them for some other outfit with more sparkles or a rainbow unicorn or less cloth. There's also not a day that she's come home without face paint transforming her into some other being, though sometimes what that being is is kind of tough to tell.

She loves "her new baby" and asks to "pet her" on the regular, even though being rubbed on her bald little head is one of Tessa's least favorite things. Sybil loves nothing more than to play make believe, running around the house with a blanket as her Elsa cape and announcing that whoever is in sight is either Princess Anna or Prince Hans. She adores all things Declan, even throughout the sibling abuse that she goes through, but we know that she's just going to get feistier and feistier in her self defense techniques. But even with this feistiness and strong willed self, at night she will constantly find my arms and melt her body as close as possible, sometimes stroking my face and sometimes moving my hand to rub her back. The twos are so far from terrible with her, so we're just crossing our fingers that she's not just saving all of that for her teenage years.

And Declan, oh my first sweet baby Declan. He is at this interesting intersection of deciding his identity, wanting to be bigger but also still so little at heart. He's fascinated with rescue anything, calling out any fire station that we pass (and asking us to decide if the doors are open or closed before we pass our local ones) and chatting incessantly about police and criminals and his future profession with them (the police, not the criminals). He's interested in trying out new words and sounding very wise, talking about the "adults" and explaining situations to Sybi, but also stuck on calling everything and everyone "stupid", knowing that it tests the limits and our patience. Testing is basically what describes his life focus most perfectly right now - for example, he tested what would happen when he pushed the vacuum cleaner down the stairs the other day. He's testing different identities, both good and bad, and figuring out where he wants to be on that spectrum. And for our sake, we all hope that he ends up on the better end, because this phase can be pretty exhausting.

All this to say, there are so many moments when I see the sweet guy that he's always been. Like this morning when it was just the two of us and he grabbed the raisins and brown sugar for his oatmeal (after saying his signature morning line of, "All I want in my oatmeal is brown sugar and peanut butter and raisins. Promise??" like we haven't heard it about 423 times already) and did a happy little shimmy as I mixed them for him. Or like last night when he gave us all kisses as we were going to sleep. Or every time he says, "I'm so glad that we have a new baby!". Or even the other day when he and Sybil played for hours without incident, because no matter how much he pesters her he really does love her more than anyone else as well. He's assertive but shy, wants to be fearless but still is cautious of new situations and still needs strong arms to run back to. There's a tenderness that he stirs in me as I watch him try out his older persona while still needing to feel that his safe space of family is close by.

So there it is, a snippet of my babies laid out as of January 3, 2017. One of my goals this year is to get reacquainted with this space, not for others to read and enjoy (though I'd be lying to say that doesn't matter to me), but for me to hold on to these special times. Because these are the days that I've dreamt of, as challenging as they may be, and stepping away to see the beauty in them will hopefully help bring all the good to extra clear focus. 

Happy New Year friends. Hope to see much more of you in 2017!