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.

Quick…Write! It’s Nap Time!

I’ve bought myself a few moments for writing.

After a slow morning of pancakes, reading, and Play-doh, it’s my turn to retreat.  When the big kid finally went off to nap and the little one snuggled in next to Daddy to watch TV, I contemplated how I might spend a few stolen moments alone.  It would be easiest to veg away my time browsing Facebook or conquering more levels on an iPad game I’m ashamed to admit I’m crazy about.  And my Achiever self says I should probably spend these minutes grading papers or planning lessons.  But I’m choosing this instead.  It’s probably only because I’m finally headed toward well rested that I am thinking clearly enough to realize that this will leave me feeling better than vegging or grading.  So here I am.

I have no plan, other than to fill in some of the gaps between my sporadic posts lately.  Just filling in a few pages of the Memembery Book so that the mememberies don’t vanish. Prepare for random…

  • I’ve been living it up the last two weekends thanks to the cash I won in the video contest.  Last weekend Ruth and I spent Friday night at a swanky girls-only fundraiser.  We both admitted ahead of time that we were a bit nervous that we were going to be way out of our league at this event.  But we breathed a collective sigh of relief when we pulled into the parking lot and agreed we were at least as cool as the car of ladies getting out beside us.  So we got over ourselves and made a big ol’ night of it….facials, massages, up-do’s, manicures, pictures, caricatures, and (unashamedly) four plates at dinner.  Sure, all the pampering was fun, but the best part was conversation with a friend uninterrupted by little people.  Thankful.
  • Last night Ruth and her daughter watched those little people so that Jay and I could go out and spend the rest of the contest money.  We thoroughly enjoyed a most relaxing dinner at the Melting Pot.
    Again the best part?  Getting to that point in the conversation when we had to think about what to talk about next.  We never get there these days because conversations we try to have are interrupted by discourses on My Little Pony, moo-ing (Bubba’s latest trick), or just pure exhaustion.  After dinner, despite our less than ideal footwear, we strolled down the mall, holding hands…both to keep warm and to remind ourselves that it is just as good as nine years ago.  No…it’s better.
  • My body has made a very clear statement in the last few weeks that I am not getting any younger.  (Oh…that reminds me of a funny story to tell you next.  Don’t let me forget.)  For two or three weeks I was waking up with a terrible headache every morning.  My first suspect was the glass of cheap wine I was enjoying the night before, so I begrudgingly gave that up.  No difference.  More than one friend and half-way trustworthy internet source suggested dehydration, so I now have nearly a half-dozen empty water bottles lying beside my bed.  When that didn’t work either, I decided I had to try more sleep.  Whadaya know…it worked.   I’ve always needed more sleep than Jay, but I’m finally coming to the point of admitting to myself that there is nearly nothing worth sacrificing for feeling well rested in the morning.  No blog posts, no lesson plans, and certainly no Facebook updates, or iPad games.  Sheesh.
  • This week on the way to school Chica asked me how many days it was until her birthday.  I did the quick math and told her she had 31 days.  She replied, “31?!  If you put all those days together, that’s how big Daddy is!”  And before my brain could figure out just what she meant, she continued, “Daddy is 31.  No way!  What a coincidence!”  I love that kid.
  • Thanks to a very gentle push from Bubba’s teacher this week, we are done with bottles.  I had been reluctant to try to get rid of them because I feared bedtime without them.  True to his stubborn self, he is basically refusing the sippy cup at all costs, but he’s still going to sleep.  I’ll take it.  He’ll come around.
  • One of my most favorite things these days is reading to Chica.  We’re about halfway through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek.  I’m repeatedly amazed at how 75 years later, the important themes of childhood haven’t changed any…obedience, stretching the truth, comparison, mean girls, discovery, play, just to name a few.  I love hearing Chica interpret Laura’s actions through her own little 2013 brain.
  • I’m a little nervous to even write about this last memembery, but one of my friends took a bold step in the same direction this week, so I will too.  Earlier this school year I was invited to take part in two writing projects.  I turned one in this week, ahead of the deadline.  Miracles.  I have plans to finish the second during Spring Break.  Of course I’m looking forward to that week for days of not having to pack lunches and wearing sweatpants all day, but I also can’t wait for time to write without the nagging feeling that I should be getting something ready for school.  I’m so thankful for discovering a new passion in writing over this past year.  I’m not sure I have the confidence yet to just bust out and call myself a writer, but I might be getting there.

Ok….so JK on that being the last memembery.  This is really the last one.  I usually let Jay read my posts before hitting publish.  When I went into the den to bring him the computer, I found a memembery that needs no extra words:


Thanks for the time to write, Jay.  I know it was hard work.  : )




Bagel! (The Codeword You’ll Never Guess)

Mommy and Daddy have to create a united front. Divided we are easily conquered.

Jay and I try really hard not to change a decree that has already been made by the other parent. Even if, for example, I think three green beans instead of nine would be sufficient in order to get the all-important treat, I go with what he said. Because he said it first. Oh, and that time I had already agreed that Chica could wear the tutu for her day of running errands with Daddy. Though there was lots of mumbling involved initially, he went with it. Because I said it first. You have to at least make them think you are on the same page. Otherwise they’ll take you down. Fast.

Well lately we’ve had a few situations where it’s easy to see that the decision that was handed down was based solely on parental laziness. Like, “No, we’re not having omelets today because there’s not enough time.” What we actually meant was, “No, I’m not making one because cereal is just so much easier.” Or, “No, we’re not watching TV right now.” The real truth is, “I don’t feel like getting up from my warm spot in the kitchen to go all the way downstairs, turn it on for you, and wait for you to make up your mind about what to watch. So, no. No TV.”

Nine times out of ten, we still agree. Truthfully, neither one of us wants to make an omelet on a school morning or stand there while she thumbs through 17 episodes of My Little Pony on Netflix before finding just the right one. But then there’s that tenth time.

Take this morning, for example. Chica was all dressed except for shoes. Just like every other day for the last two weeks, she asked to wear her boots that Nana gave her for Christmas. “I can’t find my booooooots,” came her whiny voice from the bedroom.
Jay quickly shot back from the kitchen table, “Wear your tennis shoes.”

And so here I am in that weird place once again. Daddy has already said one thing, and that should be the final answer. But I know the rest of that sentence really is, “Wear your tennis shoes because I don’t know where your boots are, and I’m not planning on getting up from reading the newspaper in order to help you find them.” I knew the boots were in the living room next to the sofa. So part of me wants to tell her because I know the impending meltdown that’s about to occur over second-rate footwear. But the other part of me knows that what Daddy says goes, so I hold off.

Ok, so actually I just whisper to him that I know where they are, and he is able to edit his own decree. Win-win. But while she fetched her boots from downstairs, I started telling Jay that we need a code word for when this kind of thing happens again. Specifically when he makes a parenting decision and I want to say the opposite but I’m not sure if he’s really ok with that. He didn’t really get exactly what I was talking about, but he decided on a codeword, nonetheless. Bagel. He was really just humoring me I think, trying to get back to reading the newspaper.

Fast forward a few hours. Dinner has ended, and we are standing at the kitchen window admiring the massive amounts of snow suddenly falling. Chica asks if we can pull the blinds all the way up to get a better view. Jay says, “No, they’re fine where they are.” I read, “No…..I don’t really want to get up, so no.” I don’t mind pulling them up, so I guess you know what’s coming….


Except for he looks at me with the strangest look. He’s forgotten what his own codeword means. Classic.

So we get a good laugh, and I pull the blinds all the way up, and he’s fine with that. Just another successful day for Team Mom&Dad.

© WordRidden  | Flickr Creative Commons

Please Don’t Make Me Play Barbies

So let’s be honest here…there are some pretty undesirable parts of parenting that we all must endure.  There’s the daily dousing in any number of bodily fluids.  There are loud, obnoxious toys that will invariably come to life when you are trying to creep out of a sleeping baby’s bedroom.  Oh, and don’t forget stepping on torture devices also known as Legos.  (Yes, each of these did, in fact, happen to me today.)

But ranking right up there (er….down there maybe) with these other least favorite parts of parenting you’ll find playing Barbies in my list.  We don’t use the “h word” in our house, so instead I’ll say that I despise, loathe, and detest this obligation as a mom of a four year old girl.

I had an indifferent attitude toward Barbie as a kid.  I owned one metal cookie tin’s worth of Barbies, and my favorite was by far the astronaut.  She had a purpose.  But my Barbies spent most of their time crammed in the tin in the bottom of my closet.  I much preferred my Cabbage Patch doll, Legos, and a Ninja Turtle or two.

My quam with Barbie isn’t the typical body image complaint that most moms get worked up about.  I’m sure one day it will be a deal, but right now that kind of stuff isn’t on Chica’s radar.  For me the problem with playing Barbies is the script.  See, the writer and director of our play, Chica, is seriously in need of some new material.  Every single time we play, it’s all about getting married.  The director feeds me one line at a time that I must recite.  There’s no use trying to use a little artistic license and veer from the script.  We must do it her way.

This afternoon she woke me up from my oh-so-sweet Sunday afternoon nap to invite me to play with my not so favorite toy.  Grrrr.  More than anything I didn’t want to get out of bed yet, so I agreed to play if it meant I didn’t have to move from my cozy spot.  She liked that idea, and so the torture began.  When we got to the part in today’s edition of Let’s Get Married that involved red stuff dripping from Ken’s eyes, I decided this story had to be recorded for your reading pleasure.  Here’s a recap of today’s saga…

As always, the story begins with four desperate Barbies, each begging the prince, Ken, to marry her.  He gives an emphatic, “No,” to each one, but the Birthday Princess Barbie somehow catches his eye enough to give her a second chance.  He again says, “No,” explaining that he is too young to get married, but in the end he just can’t resist her.  It must be the hair.

So he agrees to marry her and invites Birthday Princess Barbie over to his house to play.  They play an exciting game of tag followed by hide-n-seek.   The prince invites Barbie to lie in his bed and look at the stars, but Barbie (played by me at that point) just isn’t ready for that step in their relationship yet.  So the prince and Barbie play more tag instead.

All of a sudden, the prince gets too tired and hot, and red stuff starts dripping from his eyes.  (Seriously…where does she get this stuff?!?)  Barbie, who is more practical than sympathetic, of course insists that he clean it up.  The prince, being a spoiled mama’s boy, calls his mom in to clean up the mysterious red liquid.  Mom seems not at all surprised and agrees willingly.

Time passes and the prince tires of Birthday Princess Barbie and her predictable games of tag and hide-n-seek.  He decides that he doesn’t want to marry her after all.  He wants to marry this one because, “She’s gooder.”

Birthday Princess Barbie responds in the only way she knows how.  She gets mean.  She determines she’s going to be the, “Queen of all princesses,” no matter the cost.

The prince’s wedding to the “gooder” girl begins, complete with an elaborate wedding march song hummed by Chica.  Birthday Princess Barbie can’t take the sight of losing her man, and she crashes their wedding.  “Marry me!” I am forced to beg.  (Here’s where a little artistic license sure could have livened up the story a bit.  There are all kinds of words Birthday Princess Barbie could have used to describe a girl who would show her crack on her wedding day.  I digressed.  Sorry.)

When crashing the wedding doesn’t work, Barbie tries her last tactic…manipulation.  She begins to sulk and then cry, and surprisingly the prince is much more sympathetic than I would have ever been.  He embraces her, and her kiss makes him realize that Birthday Princess Barbie is truly the girl for him.  He says, and I quote, “I haven’t finished the wedding meeting yet, so it’s okay.”

At this point I am actually the slightest bit interested to see if the happy couple will face any retaliation from Gooder Girl.  Regrettably I don’t get to find out, however, because a farty noise making, crawling ogre enters the room.  Yeah, Bubba woke up from his Sunday afternoon nap, and he couldn’t resist getting in on the action.  Playing Barbies with an eight month old is even less fun than playing with a four year old, so I am thankfully rescued from my misery….until next time.

Maybe next time I can convince Chica to let me be the screenwriter.  When I’m in charge, Birthday Princess Barbie won’t meet Ken until she’s had a chance to figure out who she is without him.  She’ll befriend Gooder Girl and they’ll go on all kinds of adventures together.

When they are parasailing in Rio, Barbie and Gooder Girl will meet Ken and his equally smart and handsome twin brother, Kip.  No jealous drama needed.  After a long courtship (which doesn’t involve any smooth, “Let’s watch the stars,” lines from either guy), they’ll get married in a double wedding right there in Rio and live happily ever after.  Oh…and Gooder Girl gets a new dress by then.

Make You Fall in Love Pasta Salad

Our family is big on food traditions.  Friday nights mean dinner at the Yellow Sub.  Breakfast at Grandma’s house means chocolate covered donuts.  Christmas morning means oyster stew, and any good picnic most definitely needs pasta salad.

Jay’s birthday is next week, and he chose a family trip to Peaks of Otter picnic area tomorrow to celebrate.  Since a picnic means pasta salad, and it just wouldn’t be right for Jay to do all the work for his birthday lunch, I had to make it.  Tonight as I boiled, chopped, and mixed, I couldn’t help but think about how Jay won me over with this pasta salad 9 years ago.

See, I lived a pretty sheltered food life growing up.  When half of your family members refuse to eat all but one fruit or vegetable (and I’m not even exaggerating, folks), there are a pretty limited number of meals that can be served in your house.  I came to college never having tried pretty normal things like pineapple, spinach, mushrooms, Chinese food, and baked beans.

I started dating Jay the summer before my senior year of college.  He had yet to learn that I had some pretty strange and picky eating habits when he planned and prepared a fancy dinner for me one evening.  I’ll never forget his momentary look of disappointment when I told him I wouldn’t be trying his shrimp cocktail that he had slaved over.  (He wants you to know that he double seared the shrimp, and the cocktail sauce was not from a jar.  He was really trying to impress me!)  I say momentary, because then he realized that meant more for him, and he got over it pretty quickly.

Luckily I didn’t hold the shrimp against him, and I gave him another chance to cook for me.  He planned a picnic for us and again prepared everything himself.  He brought us cracked pepper turkey sandwiches and pasta salad.  I can’t say for sure whether or not I had ever had pasta salad before that, but a turkey sandwich was definitely more my speed.  Let’s just say, I think I ate enough pasta salad that day for at least four people.  It was amazing.

There’s that saying about the key to a guy’s heart is through stomach, but I think this has got to be at least partially true for girls too.  He won me over that day in a big way.  The lunch and then a walk down by the train tracks…it was all perfect.  Sure, there are other things he did that summer that made me know he was a keeper like washing my dishes, taking my car to get it fixed, and playing countless hands of cards.  But the memories of that particular picnic are a little less fuzzy than many of the other memories.  That clarity is definitely thanks to the pasta salad.

So, nine years later he still does the dishes, takes care of my car, and makes a mean pasta salad.  I know the bowl I made for tomorrow is nowhere near as good as that first batch, but it has brought up lots of good memories just the same.  Happy Birthday, Jay.

In case there’s somebody that you are trying to get to fall in love with you, here’s the recipe.  Don’t make it unless you are serious about that person because it really works.  It goes best with turkey sandwiches on a paper plate.

Make You Fall in Love Pasta Salad

1 box of mini shell pasta
5 green onions
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 small cucumber
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
grape tomatoes
1 Italian dressing seasoning mix pouch
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
apple cider vinegar

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  While it cooks, dice up the onions, peppers, and cucumber.  Chop the cilantro.  Mix the Italian dressing by following the directions on the package with one exception:  use half apple cider vinegar and half balsamic vinegar.  When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and cool it off using cold water and/or ice cubes.  When the pasta is cool, add the chopped vegetables, cilantro, and about ¾ of the Italian dressing.  Mix well.  Add salt to taste.  Refrigerate for a few hours.  Right before serving, cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the pasta.

Redneck Luggage

When you grow up and get married, you have this moment where you realize that all families do things a little differently.  The way you learned to fold t-shirts, load the dishwasher, squeeze the toothpaste, or plan a vacation is just different…it’s not worse or better.  Just different.  In order to make it work, it’s usually best to just pick one way as a new family and go with it.

I was reflecting on this while cleaning today.  I opened my pantry to put away another empty reusable grocery bag.  The sight is pretty scary.

After a quick look, I counted eleven, but I’m sure there are more hiding in the depths of this closet.  That wouldn’t be so bad if I, in fact, used them for groceries.  I never do.  I think it’s a grand idea, and I buy more thinking I will follow through, but it never happens.  That’s because I’m always using them for luggage.

See, in my family growing up we used grocery bags (the brown paper kind) when packing to go pretty much anywhere and everywhere.  I think the only two times I didn’t use them were to summer camp and when flying on an airplane.  Life (and packing for it) has only improved with the invention of the reusable fabric ones.

In many ways Jay has been able to win me over to his way of doing things.  I now put cereal bowls on the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  When we have mashed potatoes, we don’t use flakes.  I try really hard to leave a few minutes early instead of waiting until the very last minute to go anywhere.  I’ve won a few.  For example, we keep the jelly in the refrigerator, thank-you-very-much.  When we were dating, we had a very memorable disagreement over whether you spray the furniture cleaner on the cloth or the table when dusting.  I think we determined no one would ever win that one, so we solved it by just not dusting.  Pretty much ever.

So back to the grocery bags.  He’s tried multiple times to convince me of the marvels of proper suitcases and duffle bags.  His reasons are valid, including easier packing in the car and not looking like a ten year old while traveling.  For whatever reason though, I just have yet to let them go.  When we leave for vacation later this summer, he’ll pack his suitcase, and I’ll have a grocery bag (or three) each for Chica, Bubba, and myself.  He’ll scowl while packing the car, and I’ll smile, reminding him how thankful I am that he lets me win once in a while.

After spending time at both grandparents’ houses this past week, I can’t help but wonder what it will be like when Chica and Bubba reach this stage in their lives.  What will we have taught them as the “right” way to do something that they will have to negotiate with their spouses?

What about you?  Win any lately?