Thursday, December 31, 2015

Improve Physically, Intellectually, and Spiritually in the New Year

A new year is like a bright, shiny package waiting to be opened or like that moment when you take a deep breath and prepare to ask the all-important question or sing the well-practiced song. It seems anything is possible, if we just have the will to see it through. God has plans for us, plans for good and not for evil. What dreams does he want us to dream? What good works does he want us to accomplish? How much closer can we get to heaven in the next 365 days?

New Year's resolutions are a call to self-improvement, but for Christians they are also a reminder that the main architect of our improvement is our God and not ourselves. Reforming ourselves does no good unless we're also conforming ourselves to the will of God.

As a wife and mother, I know that serving my family is my path to holiness and happiness. So, for 2016, I've resurrected my old habit of making each family member's resolutions my own and helping them to achieve their most important goals in the next twelve months. We all decided to concentrate on three areas: the physical, the intellectual, and the spiritual. You can do the same for your family and then see how far they've come by the end of the year. It's a great way to measure the seemingly unquantifiable goals of family life.

The Santos Family's 2016 New Year's Resolutions

1. Me: My physical health suffered a setback when I sprained my ankle just before Pope Francis' visit to the United States in September, and my lack of exercise has weighed heavily upon me (literally as well as figuratively). My prayer life has also been crowded out by the increasing demands of writing and speaking. And I haven't helped my kids with their homework as much as I'd like. Resolved: Weekly exercise, daily prayer, more homework help for the kids.

2. Manny: My husband fought a major battle to limit his commute time last year, and he won. This year, he should have time to make it to the taekwondo classes that he signed up for but can rarely attend. Because he's now home for dinner more often than not, we can try once again to institute a Spanish-speaking dinner hour so he can teach the Santos kids the language that befits their last name. Although the two of us already pray the fifth decade of the rosary pretty regularly at bedtime, we could make a firmer commitment to it. Resolved: Weekly taekwondo classes, Spanish-speaking dinner hour, daily couple prayer.

3. Lelia (14): A lot of things changed when our eldest daughter entered public high school, and surprisingly most of them were good! She'd like to join the school kickline (think teenage Rockettes) or the color guard. She's gotten out of the habit of praying before lunch in school -- in her parochial elementary school, they piped lunchtime prayers in over the loudspeakers, and of course they don't do that in public school. She's also gotten into the habit of watching TV on her smartphone (accursed gadget) instead of reading. Resolved: Prepare for kickline and color guard auditions, say grace before lunch, read more.

4. Miguel (12): This almost-teenager is already starting preparations to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the next school year. He needs to choose a saint's name and a service project. He also needs to learn how to hold fast to his faith when he follows his sister Lelia to public high school in  a few years. With more practice and study, he will probably earn his black belt in taekwondo and at last be permitted to audition for the traveling soccer team. Similar to his older sister, he's been spending more time with his favorite technology, in his case video games, than with a good book. Resolved: Prepare for Sacrament of Confirmation, start travel soccer, read more.

5. Maria (10): Maria will probably also receive her black belt this year, and she's just started piano lessons. She wants to learn Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, but I told her that Fur Elise was a more realistic goal. She'd like to take an online course through Johns Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth and learn to use the microscope she got for Christmas. Also, she's committing to ten minutes of daily mental prayer. Resolved: Learn to play Fur Elise, take online course, 10 minutes daily prayer.

6. Marga (9): Marguerite would like to win more first place medals in her gymnastics competitions this upcoming year -- five would make her happy. She's also worried about doing well in the New York State standardized tests for fourth-graders. She rooms with big sister Lelia and they frequently say bedtime prayers out loud together, but Marga would like to add more mental prayer to that. Resolved: 5 gold medals, pass the state tests, add mental prayer to bedtime prayer.

7. Cecilia (7): Cecilia wants to win as many gymnastics medals in 2016 as Marga did in 2015, so she's aiming at fifteen to twenty. She's also preparing to receive her first confession and First Holy Communion. And her mother would like to finally find a school subject that flips the switch on and gets C.C. really interested. C.C.'s last book report said she wouldn't recommend the book because it didn't have enough tragedy. Huh. Resolved: 15 to 20 medals, prepare for confession and communion, discover academic interests.

8. Emma (5): Our cutiest still has trouble saying words like "straw" and "strong" and sometimes she can't pronounce letter sounds well when she's trying to read. Her report card was not, um, what a kindergartener's report card should be. Plus, everybody says I spoil her. What!? Resolved: Better speech, more fluent reading, no spoiling.

What are your family's New Year's resolutions? Can you help them achieve their goals for 2016? Would love to hear from you in the comments.

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  1. What a great idea, to resolve to help your family members meet their own resolutions! We haven't discussed resolutions at all in our house and our boys are still very young, but maybe this would make for a good conversation for tomorrow. I'm hoping that our oldest (5, like your daughter) learns to read this year, so that's probably a good place to start. Thanks for the ideas!

    1. When my littler were younger, we only made one resolution per kid. They needed a lot more help then. God bless you in the new year!


  2. Very intersting post…. I enjoyed reading your informative article and considering the points.

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