Halfway is Okay

Every once in a while I have all of my stuff together.  The other 51 weeks in the year, I feel like I’m barely making it.

I figured out a long time ago that one obvious solution to this coming-apart-at-the-seams feeling is to just pick one or two areas of my life to do really well at any given time and just let the rest sort of coast.  Sometimes this means I’m kicking butt at schoolwork while my house is a disaster.  Other times I’m taking great care of my body with lots of running and cooking while the ungraded papers start to pile up.  And when the undone feeling in that neglected area gets too great, I spend a day or two catching up and readjust my focus for the next week or so.  I’ve come to be fine with this rhythm.  At peace with it, actually.

I can’t say that the work is finished or that somehow I can fully describe to you what has happened, but this has been a school year of Jesus readjusting my priorities in an even bigger way.  And as lame as this might sound, I have to admit that it started with the long delayed obedience of quitting the Facebooks.  It took me a while to connect those two dots…my prayer for readjusted priorities and Jesus’ call to give up this huge time suck on my life.  But…uh…hello!?!  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Give up this thing that brings no glory to anyone but myself and gain time to bring glory to Jesus.

It’s still a work in progress, but I just feel myself finally pouring less of myself into the bring-glory-to-me things and more into the bring-glory-to-Him things.

So somehow this is all connected to what I thought I was going to write about when I sat down here…my dining room floor.

It’s disgusting really.

Tonight after dinner I noticed just how bad it was.  But I decided not to clean it.

I decided to load the dishwasher and put the leftovers away but leave the floor.  My family was outside in the front yard ready to go for a walk. The bits of paper and the crumbs and the who knows what else can wait.  As I shut the front door I chimed to Jay for the third or fourth time this weekend, “Halfway is okay*!”  And we walked, and it was fun.  We waved at new neighbors and watched helicopter seeds twirl and practiced looking both ways at stop signs.  There was Bubba poking Jay in the butt and Jay pooting in Bubba’s poor face and lots and lots of laughs.  The dining room floor is still waiting, and no one cares.

So just in case you need permission tonight, friends, halfway really is okay.

Clean half of the dishes.
Grade half of the papers.
Eat half of your meals healthy this week.
Or go for a half mile walk instead of none.
Put away half of the laundry.

And use the rest of the time to snuggle a few more minutes or shoot a few more hoops on the driveway or read another book at bedtime.  You’ll be glad you did.

Less glory for me; more glory for Him.

*P.S. While I wholeheartedly believe that, “Halfway is okay,” applies to any and all housework situations, there are plenty of occasions where this mantra does not apply.  Say, for example, keeping matches away from little people, baking chicken, or covering private parts.  Use responsibly.

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Just So You Know

Just so you know, I have the best family ever.  They love me so much that they ran away for the afternoon so that I could work for like 5 straight hours.  Alone.  Sweet, glorious, solitary work time.  Ahhh….

In between grading 45 animal posters, sweeping up dust balls the size of guinea pigs, and finding missing puzzle pieces in the diaper pail, I had some time to think.

I spent some of the time wondering just how long it had been since I had swept the bathroom floor or who exactly hid the puzzle piece in such an odd place, but mostly I thought about why I was enjoying such a great day.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all signs pointed to me having a bang-up kind of afternoon.  Really.

You see, I have a bit of a fascination with personality tests.  I think I probably took my first one in preparation to be a camp counselor in high school.  Since then I’ve been subjected to plenty of others—for jobs, teams, projects, classes, and every once in a while, just for fun.  It seems many people quickly forget the results of these tedious assessments, but instead I often find myself discovering some tiny new, helpful way to understand what makes me tick.  And it seemed that the longer I contemplated it this afternoon, the more sense it made as to why I was just delighted to be at home working alone.

So mostly because I’m curious to see if I would describe myself the same way in a few years (and less because I think you’ll actually be very interested) here’s a summary of me according to a few descriptions that I remember best…

INTJ—It’s been awhile since I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test, but I remember one thing very well from my most recent assessment….I lean very far to the introverted side of things.  I actually think the last time I took it I received the highest possible score I could in this category.  So while several of my friends left last night’s retirement party spinning with excitement, I left needing some major recovery time.  This afternoon solo fit the bill exactly.

Acts of Service—I don’t think I had to actually take a test to know that this is my love language.  When Jay and I were dating in college, I got lots of gushy letters on my windshield and a few pretty sweet gifts.  But I’m not sure any of those things stood a chance against the day he took my car to the shop get it serviced without even being asked.  So when he takes both crazy kids for the afternoon and puts up with their shenanigans, not only do I get three times more accomplished, but I feel super loved.

listAchiever—The StrengthsFinder test is by far the one that has made the most sense to me.  Besides Achiever, my other four “strengths” are Focus, Significance, Learner, and Responsibility.  This description of Achiever is so me:

You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied.

So while ½ of my little family (Bubba not included) would be perfectly fine spending the whole day watching Wild Kratts or StarTrek episodes, I’m just not wired that way.  I feel a greater amount of rest and peace after working hard and accomplishing tasks than I ever feel on a lazy day.

There are a few other tiny nuggets that I have learned about myself along the way.  Though they don’t necessarily explain why I’d choose a work day at home over many other options, I still think they are interesting and telling.  I use the idea of Multiple Intelligences in my class regularly, and I think mine are probably intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, and (maybe, more recently) linguistic.  And I once took part in a decision making simulation that showed that I like to spend forever in the gathering information stage, and then I fly right past the weighing options and into carrying out the plan.  Fascinating stuff, I tell you.

Here we are, 740 words later, and I’m stuck trying to wrap this thing up.  My brain that’s wired with the strength of Focus says that there must be some bigger point.

Your Focus reminds everyone that if something is not helping you move toward your destination, then it is not important. And if it is not important, then it is not worth your time. You keep everyone on point.

So maybe this is the destination I’m headed towards…becoming more and more fascinated with the Creator and his intricate creations.  No matter how many tests could be developed and taken, no combination of test results can fully explain any one person.  And those people around me who are the exact opposite from me—the extroverted, feeling, gift-giving, woo-ers—are there to help me see a fuller picture of the Master of creativity.

Yep.  I think I’ll focus on that.

One Thing….Or Ten

So I’ve sat here for entirely too long trying to make this post about one thing.  Here’s what it’s about so I can just get on with it:

We have two more weeks of school, the last two weeks have been crazy, and it’s time to just jot down the stuff worth remembering.  

That’s enough of a “one thing”, right?  Ok, good.

  • Yesterday I called Jay at work to tell him that he must dress his son before leaving for school or else I might break Bubba’s arm.  I wasn’t even kidding.  The ten minute wrestling/screaming match on the bedroom floor in order to put on a clean outfit just wasn’t the best way I could think to start my day.  Or his.  Today Daddy dressed Bubba, Chica put on his shoes, and we got to school early.  Thankful.
  • We finished By the Shores of Silver Lake last night.  I thought for sure they weren’t going to ever get the homestead for the winter storms and the unwanted overnight guests, but they finally made it, just in time for the more storms, it appears.  There’s just something not quite right about starting a book called The Long Winter when it’s finally getting hot outside.
  • Cicadas are my most recent fascination.  I watched one for maybe 20 minutes the other night as it emerged from its exoskeleton.  Earlier this week we pointed out the shells to Chica, and she (no surprise) proceeded to make up a Cicada Hunt song.  “We’re going on a cicada hunt.  Might be dead ones, might be live ones, might be real ones, might be shell ones.  We’re doing on a cicada h-u-u-u-nt!”
  • I admit my other recent fascination is The Voice.   Ridiculous, I know.  But because I can only watch about 10 minutes max before falling asleep each night, I’ll probably still be watching it in August.  Don’t tell me who wins, mkay?
  • One night Chica comes in her room and says in a worried tone, “Mom!  There’s something on the potty, and it won’t go away.  It won’t go away when I flush it!”  “Yes, Chica, that’s what happens when your mommy goes on a housework strike for one too many weeks in a row.  That’s why most mommies clean the potty every week.  I’ll get to it soon, I promise.”
  • On Saturday Bubba fed a giraffe from his hand and Jay fist bumped a turkey.  The Metro Richmond Zoo is a neat place.
  • Last week I did something pretty cool, and then I waited by the e-mail for the praise to roll in.  And it didn’t.  I know I have something to learn in this, but I think I forgot it when I finally got an e-mail about the something cool today.
  • Now that tests are over, there’s such a sense of freedom in my little brain as I teach.  Today we followed the rabbit trails for ever so long through decimal division and decimal multiplication and if numbers get bigger or smaller (or both) when you multiply.  Then how multiplication and division are related and two ways to think about division. And finally we made our way back around to pictures and stories to go with the decimal division problem we had in the first place.  And there were lots of Oooooooohhhhh’s and I-get-it’s.  Math is so cool.  My kids are pretty darn cool too.
  • Speaking of rabbit trails, while reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham and the part about a raccoon drowning a dog, I had to tell my raccoon story.  I just will never forget the image of Jay jumping out of his truck and chasing a raccoon down with a pocket knife in order to rescue his desperate wife.  That’s definitely one of my favorite CrossRoads memories ever.

Ok.  That’s enough for now.  Off to fall asleep to my 10 minutes of The Voice and continue my strike a little longer.  Summer, come soon.

Changing Sheets

Sometimes God speaks in a still, small voice.  Other times he uses trash that’s fallen down between the bed and the wall.  Whatever works.

It’s Sunday morning.  Bubba and I are stuck home together because he puked three times in the early morning hours….once in his bed and twice in ours.  I’m attempting that delicate dance of baby watching and housework at the same time.  I’m sure moms who work at home get really good at cleaning while playing, but I usually do just one or the other.  But with the sheets on all three beds needing to be washed, I didn’t really have time for that.  (Chica’s sheets were in need of cleaning from a different bodily function earlier in the week.  You can only make a kid sleep on the floor in the sleeping bag for so many days in a row before sucking it up and just doing the wash.  Bad Mommy.)

Anyway, after stopping for the 17th time to read some dumb book about a parrot running away from a tiger, I finally got back to making Bubba’s bed.  Like I always do, I pulled the bed away from the wall a bit, both to rescue fallen books and help get the sheets tucked down.  I found the usual lost sock and board book, but I also found this:

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That is for sure my handwriting, but I have no memembery of writing it down nor what motivated me to want to remember it.  I have a good guess, though.  I’m betting I wrote it in a sleep-deprived haze when my “work” and “lot in life” consisted of not much more than a milking cow.  I can’t lie….those days were hard, girls.

So I can’t go back and change the amount of joy I had then, but you can bet I had a quick attitude check with the sheets in hand.  Was I enjoying this work?  Well…to be honest…no. I was (slightly) aggravated that I had to be home, annoyed that we have only one good set of sheets per bed, and contemplating how much faster I could work if I didn’t have to keep stopping to read about the parrot.

But I want God’s gift of enjoying my work, and I want to look back on my life without sorrow, so I guess I might as well start with the sheets.  Fake it ’til you make it, right?

I have so many reasons for joy, and I’ve decided to try to count work as one of them.  Work in all its forms:  housework, school work, and mommy work.  I didn’t do a very good job of that today.  (I’m thinking in particular of the moment when I was cleaning up 3/4 of Bubba’s dinner off the floor and got pelted, on purpose, by his “wa-wa” cup.  Still looking for the joy there.)  But if I tell you I’m trying to be joyful, then maybe I’ll find even the tiniest bit of joy tomorrow.  Sounds like a plan.

How about you?  How do you take joy in your work?

A Few Friendly Reminders

Students are people too.  Their moms get cancer and their grandfathers die and their parents make bad choices.  Cut them a little slack when you can.

If you have a temporary crown, you should not eat Hot Tamales.

If your temporary crown pops off, Vaseline apparently does the trick to stick it back on.

Oatmeal, when left on the table for a day, can be substituted for glue or even cement.  (No conclusion yet as a substitute for the Vaseline in the above situation.)

Four year olds know when you try to shorten a book by turning two or three pages at once.  In the end it only makes the whole thing take longer.

Four year olds, however, are still magically delighted with the most simple of Valentines.  $2 = Too much fun.

Thirty year olds with two kids should not stay up until midnight night after night.  This is hazardous to their health.

Even if you attempt to stall by writing a lame blog post, the dirty dishes will still be there.  Ugh.

Dollar Tree Valentines

So there’s a reason I don’t write a craft blog. It’s this:

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I never clean up as I work. If you write a craft blog, you have to take pictures along the way, so you clean up as you go. Me? I make a mess, scoot to the next open space on the table, and plan to clean it up when I’m done. Or tomorrow. Ok…..so definitely by two weeks from now.

Actually, there are a few other reasons I don’t write a craft blog. I’m always doing dumb stuff like cutting my own fingers with scissors or pressing print before I double check my spelling. I also am frequently missing essential items like a paper cutter or a whole punch, and my improvised tools don’t work so well. Projects that look like they’ve been cut out by a second grader don’t make for very good close-ups.

I definitely like to be crafty, but most of the time it seems that it takes too much time and money…two things I don’t have very much of that is unspoken for already. But tonight the pinspiration hit me, and I managed to pull off homemade Valentine’s for both of my kids’ classes. (Oh gees…I really did just use that word.)

Jay was at a meeting at church, and the kids and I had a few hours to kill. I now have just enough experience as a mom to know that if I wait until Wednesday night to figure out Valentines, it will be disaster all around. That’s certainly not enough time to pull off something homemade, and the only premade cards at Wal-mart will be either very expensive, inappropriate, or something you’ve never heard of in your life. Yeah….been there, done that.

So I pried Chica away from My Little Pony (what is it with that show these days??), loaded both kids up, and headed to the Dollar Tree. Actually, first I showed her a few non-food Valentine ideas that I thought we could pull off with stuff from our one-stop shopping trip. She didn’t seem particularly thrilled by any of them (I was rooting for these), so I told her we’d just be on the lookout for something else there that would inspire us. And then, of course, I had to define inspire.

After nixing the heart shaped mazes (Come on….”You amaze me”……so perfect!), the silly straws, and the bugs, she finally landed on glow sticks. We had seen a glow stick idea before we left, so I liked the idea of something I wouldn’t have to recreate. I also found bubbles for Bubba’s class (I was thinking, You blow my mind, Valentine), glue sticks for Chica’s teachers (I’m stuck on you), and lotion for Bubba’s teachers (Thanks for making every day so smooth). Oh, and she picked out a card for her daddy, complete with jokes she didn’t really understand, and one somewhat useful item from the man aisle. Useful if you were stranded on a deserted island, maybe?? We made it out of there and managed to only drop $15.

Anyway, I got home, made the usual Daddy’s-not-home dinner (PBJ), and decided to look for ways to pull off these projects quickly and easily. Guess what?! I found something ready to just print, cut out, and tie or tape on for three out of four of my projects. Since we’ve only recently acquired a printer as a hand-me-down, I am just now realizing the miracle that is the “free printable.” Jackpot!

In case you need a quick, cheap, and easy homemade Valentine, here’s a rundown of my sources:

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Glow Stick Printable. All that’s left to do is to have Chica sign her name to all 17 of them. You don’t think that will take all week, do you? : )

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Bubbles Printable. This mom made the pattern to fit Dollar Tree bubbles, so they were absolutely perfect. This turned out to be my favorite of the night.

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Stuck On You Printable. Her actual craft that goes with the printable is way cooler than my dollar store glue sticks, but my glue sticks are way more useful in a pre-k class, I guess.

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I couldn’t find anything I really liked for my lotion idea, so I used these gift tags and some super-cute fonts I found here to make my own.

Oh gees, it’s 11:00. Wrap this thing up, Tracy!

So here’s the big money idea (or maybe two) for the night: creative people are really just people who are good at borrowing other people’s ideas. Don’t reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to. If you have an idea, chances are someone else has had it before too. If it’s something crafty, check Pinterest and Google images to see if you can mooch off their hard work. And spend the time you saved yourself on cleaning up your work space when you are done. (Ugh…still have to do that.)

Big money #2: I am not too proud to admit that this project today was 95% about me. Chica would probably be much more thrilled with a box of My Little Pony tear off cards than her homemade Valentines. Bubba’s classmates might enjoy the bubbles, but they’ll be oblivious to the perfectly-sized wrap I so carefully (ha!) added. But seeing this project from start to finish has made me feel good. I like creating (or recreating, I guess) and admiring the finished product when done. Oh, and I like writing about it.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I wish you a little time this week to do something you enjoy doing, too!

A Toddler Might Live in Your House If…

sweeping toddlerAll of your trashcans are three feet off the ground.

75% of the doors in your house are closed 90% of the time.

You rehearse the names of body parts and animal sounds multiple times a day.

You speak in third person whenever you want someone to do something for you.  Ex.  “Tell Mommy where you hid that phone.  She really needs it.”

You have knock-down, drag-out fights over who gets to hold the spoon.

The most used toys are not toys at all, but instead household items like brooms, laundry baskets, whisks, etc.

You’ve ever used a hood as a handle.

You have to break through a fortress to use the stairs.

You slide everything on a table at least one foot away from the edge.

You consider any fall that doesn’t involve blood a successful landing, and each fall is followed by an enthusiastic, “Yaaaay!  You’re OK.  Get up!”

You leave dead electronics (ex. phones, remotes, printers) around to try to distract from the real ones.

You find yourself saying things you never thought you’d say like, “Don’t lick that pine cone.”

There’s a wholelotta love and a wholelotta crazy at the same time.