Monday, February 9, 2015

5 Ways to Change the Tone of Your Home

In high school, I was in a "vocal ensemble." That's a fancy word for a small group of singers who sang off key less often than the rest of the high school chorus. We traveled for competitions and sang for most of the school's "cantata's." Yes, sir'ee. We were something else.

I totally had in my mind that the vocal ensemble would be the launchpad for my future singing career. I would be on a VH1 special one day, talking about the wonderful experience I had during my "high school career" and how music saved me in a tumultuous time in my life (you know, like the time I got a zit two days before prom).

Don't pretend like you didn't want to be famous too, Judgy McJudgerson.


There's one performance that particularly stands out in my mind, not for its perfect timing or on-point harmony, but because it could have been the single most embarrassing moment of my "high school career."

It was an a cappella number. (Wince. Yes, we were mostly an a cappella group. It's amazing I wasn't more popular in high school.) The director (a hottie senior) would hit a note on the piano, walk over to the front of the stage, and count down the beginning of the song. In rehearsal, we rocked our version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot (rocked it, I say). But at the performance - a school-day assembly which all of my peers were forced to attend - our director walked over to the piano, hit the wrong key, walked back to the front of the stage, and counted down the beginning of the song.

Right off the bat, everyone in the room knew something was off. I stared at the alto section. They stared right back at me, as if to say, "What the heck are we supposed to do?" The director's ears started turning red. The audience of our peers shifted in their seats and hid their smirks and snickers behind their hands (because high schoolers are mature like that). The further we went into the number, the more complex it became, and the more obvious it was that we were in the wrong key. It was a train wreck, and everyone knew it.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity of torture, the director held up his hands, stopped the song, turned to the audience, and laughed. It was the exact move needed to change the atmosphere of the room. Everyone let out a sigh of relief and laughed right along with him.

He shrugged on his way back to the piano and said, "These things happen. Let's try again."

I think about that hottie senior director sometimes. Not because he was a hottie, but because of the way he gracefully handled that train wreck of a performance. He recognized it was beyond repair, threw some humor on it, and hit the "do-over" button. I think about him because, sometimes in our home, I need to follow his example.

One of the most important realities of being "mom" is that we set the tone for our home.

We hit the first note and count down the beginning of everyone's day. 

If we get off key - if we huff and puff through our housework, if we respond too quickly to our kids or too slowly to our husbands, if we let frustration or busyness or inconvenience affect our moods - the whole ensemble of family members tends to follow suit. 

But sometimes we forget, right? 

I know I do. 

And before we know it, everything is off key, and everyone in the room knows it. 

When that happens, we have to pull a hottie senior director move. (Um... You know what I mean.)

We have to stop everything, laugh a little, and say, "These things happen. Let's try again."

Sometimes that's a lot harder than it sounds though. 

So when we find ourselves in need of a quick attitude adjustment, here's a few things we can do to slow that roll and turn it around:

1. Take a break. When my toddler decides to throw one of her ear-piercing tantrums in the middle of the kitchen floor because I won't let her play in the trash, the only thing that seems to stop her in her tracks is to remove her from the room altogether. I sweep her flailing limp body into my arms, and walk right outside. Doesn't matter the weather or time of day. We take a couple minutes to talk about the bird in the tree or the car going down the road. She forgets about the trash and the reason for her tantrum, and we walk back inside. This principle works for us mamas too.  I'm not saying you should stop making dinner and go take a 45-minute luxurious bath. But take 3-5 minutes, remove yourself from the current situation, and regroup. Step outside. Sit down and slowly sip a cup of coffee. Drink some water. If your kids are old enough, tell them "mommy needs a time out. Don't bother me unless it's an emergency." If they aren't old enough to do that, plop them down in front of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while you do a few yoga stretches. Again, I'm not talking about a 2-hour break here, just a few minutes to slow down, pay attention to your breathing, remember what you're grateful for.

2. Pray. We can't do this parenting thing on our own. At least, we can't do it well. Prayer gives us a higher perspective. It reminds us that we are called to build our homes, not required to. We are blessed with screaming toddlers and dirty houses and the dinnertime rush. Prayer realigns our vision and reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles. If you feel too stressed or overwhelmed to pray, ask your kiddos to pray for you. It amazes me how perceptive they are and how they know exactly what to say when they lay their little hands on my head and ask god to "help mommy have a happy heart."

3. Do a mirror check. Sometimes when I'm focused and hard at work on my daily to-do list, I glance in the mirror and feel surprised at who I see staring back at me. She has a furrowed brow, a clenched jaw, and a scowl that would frighten most small children. What is that facial expression saying to my family? So I take 30 seconds to intentionally change it. I relax the muscles in my forehead, unclench my jaw, take a deep breath, and smile. If it's in the middle of a really stressful moment, it will totally feel fake. That's okay. Research tells us that the act of smiling itself can actually "lift our mood". Bonus: It's a lot prettier to look at in the mirror.

4. Have a dance party. Here's where humor comes into play. Often, by the time I realize I need an attitude adjustment, my whole family has already been affected by my tone.  By this point, we all need a reset button. So have everyone stop what they're doing, and take 2 minutes to do something totally out of the ordinary and fun. Turn the music on and dance. Go jump on the trampoline. Run around the back yard screaming at the top of your lungs. If nothing else, you'll give the neighbors something to gossip about.

5. Fake it 'til you make it. Sometimes steps 1-4 don't work. I'm just sayin'. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball that a 3-minute coffee break can't fix. But when that happens, we have to ask: What can I do to make things better right now?  Often, you can't change the people or circumstances you're dealing with, but you can choose how you respond to them. You can choose to smile (see number 3), to soften your tone, to laugh. I'm not saying that you push down all emotion and pretend life is peachy all the time. Things can get really difficult, even painful, at times. But during the morning rush, or while you're helping your kids with homework - this is not the time to work through those things. This is the time to choose joy, and watch the tone of your home change with you.

What about you? Do you have any "tricks" to change the tone of your home? How do you "choose joy" in the midst of daily chaos? Let us know in comments below!

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