Currently Us

Eating
Chica:  Her new-found love is shrimp.  I think the kid could exist on shrimp and mac and cheese alone.  Since school only serves these most favorite foods about once a month, she mostly packs lunch.  Emphasis on she.  Yay for eight.
Bubba:  School lunch.  Thank the Lord for one less thing to do in the morning.
Me:  Also school lunch.  Again…one less thing.

Reading
Chica:  Upside-Down Magic, a book she got at the book fair.  This is slightly better than the Pokemon library book she’s been attached to lately.
Bubba:  Pup & Pop.  It has been so interesting to observe the differences in how the two of them learned to read.  Chica was a whole language girl, guessing most of the words by context and the beginning letter sound.  Bubba wants to sound out ev-er-y-th-ing.
Me:  Teachers’ Knowledge and Its Impact, an article for my VT class.  I’ve wanted to write a blog post all day, but I told myself I had to finish my reflection on this article first.  It hasn’t happened yet, but here I am.  Oh well.

Listening
Chica:  Hamilton.  Right Hand Man is her most frequent request.
Bubba:  Hamilton.  While waiting for the bus, he was singing, “I’ll kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.  Dadadadadaaaaaa….”  Jay sent him off with reminders that this was a line that he could not sing at school.  Fingers crossed.
Me:  Hamilton.  Today may favorite song is Dear Theodosia.  “You will come of age with our young nation…”

Watching
Chica:  Pokemon.  I admit I’ve never watched it.
Bubba:  Pokemon.  Tonight while Jay and Chica made dinner, I asked him to explain it to me.  I heard about gyms and battles and the league and…well….that’s pretty much all I got.
Me:  Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube.

Saying
Chica:  She’s going to make her Halloween costume.  We’ve got one more day to figure that out.  Ugh.
Bubba:  Yes to more things.  Like this week he said yes to helping me sort recycled materials at school.  We spent an entire hour working together happily.  Who is this new kid?
Me:  I’m going to run the RNUTS.  Yes, I’m pretty sure I AMNUTS.

Playing
Chica:  The violin.  When I remind her.
Bubba:  Anything his buddy Westin is playing.  I love our sweet neighbors.
Me:  The how-long-can-I-keep-my-house-picked-up game.  I’m going on one week.  Chica asked me if this was a record.

Hoping
Chica:  She will finish her Girls on the Run 5K next month.  I am amazed at the confidence she has gained by participating in this.
Bubba:  We will go anywhere but home every day after school.
Me:  I can make it through another week without dropping one of the too many balls I’m juggling.  Last week I turned in my homework late.  I don’t like that feeling, but, realistically I’m on the other side saying, “So what?”  The world keeps turning.  I’ll still pass the class.  Life happens.

Learning
Chica:  Focus and responsibility.  I’m thankful for her teacher who is incredibly patient and understanding.
Bubba:   Ants.  We had an oh-so-engaging dinner conversation this week about how many body sections ants have.  His teacher is always doing something to get that guy thinking!
Me:  How to use tools.  Last week it was a band saw.  Today I watched Jay use a miter saw, and I’m pretty sure I could do it by myself.  Tomorrow I’m going to use a dremel.  Sharon Bulson would be proud.

In case you enjoy looking back as much as I do…
Currently Me 2014
Currently Bubba 2014  (I guess Chica got missed….sorry kid.)
Currently Me 2013
Currently Chica 2013
Currently Bubba 2013

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Two Months of Stories

_MG_3447This sweet guy turned three in November.

I don’t believe in birthday parties with friends and favors anymore.  I tried once, but I seemed to botch everything from the budget to the (lack of) pavilion to the sunburn.  So now Nana reminds me each March and November that there’s a birthday coming up in a week or so, and it’s about time to plan something.  And something always seems to turn out to be dinner and cakes at her house with just us.  I’m so thankful.

Bubba’s only request this time was a piñata.  This request, no doubt, was a direct result of la fiesta fantastica de su amigo Weston a few weeks earlier.  Can I just tell you that Party City has a most impressive assortment of piñatas?  Holy cow…..or pirate or bird or Elmo or….you get the picture.  After wandering the aisles trying to talk myself into spending twenty bucks to buy a cardboard Jake for my kid to decapitate, I finally found the perfect choice….

_MG_3422Not only was it a lot easier for me to stomach the decapitation of this creature, but his remains could serve as a perfect prop the following Monday.  Happy Birthday, Bub!  And Happy Dinovember to me!  : )

P.S. Pro-Parent Tip #1113  No need to buy piñata stuffing candies if you are lucky enough to have a November baby.  Just use the Halloween leftovers.  They’ll never know.

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We had a pre-Thanksgiving weekend getaway with my family at a cabin near Crabtree Falls.  No internet, lots of junk food, and game after game of Blockers at the kitchen table all made for a restful mini vacation.

_MG_3571 My favorite memory from our trip, however, has to be the spontaneous hike that I took with Chica and Grandpa after checking out the frozen creek.  On a whim we decided to explore the hillside that rose behind our cabin.  After a while of up, up, and more up, we could see what appeared to be the top of the hill.  Despite Grandpa’s better judgement, Chica and I just had to see what was on the other side.  When we finally reached it, we discovered a road!  This lead us to a new way back to the house and an exciting adventure story to tell when we returned.

Oh how it will make my mommy heart happy if at least one of my kids grows up to love hiking as much as I do.  This day was a start maybe.

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I think violin teachers have super powers.  My kid, who has only been playing for a matter of weeks, stood up there and played her special part of Jingle Bells, and no one ran away screaming.  It was all pretty magical if you ask me.

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My very literal kid insisted on wearing both red and green for the evening performance because these were Mr. Claytor’s directions.  “He said Christmas colors, and Christmas colors are red and green, Mom!”  Got it, Chica.  Got it.

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Jay went out of town at the beginning of December for his geek work conference.  Whenever I leave town, one of the kids gets sick.  When he leaves, I’m always the one that ends up under the weather. This trip was no exception.  I hurt my back, and after one teary Skype call with my parents, Grandpa was on the way to help me make it through until Jay’s return.

He helped make lunches, took Bubba to school, folded laundry, wrapped presents, and returned library books for me.  But perhaps the most miraculous of all was that I somehow convinced him to agree to put up my Christmas tree.  Wow.

So for weeks it sat in our living room, ornament-less but twinkling proudly with each branch curved just-so in the way that only Grandpas know how to do.  Every few days Chica would remind me that we needed to decorate it, and each time I gave her some lame excuse as to why it wasn’t a good time.  Finally I told her on the Saturday night before Christmas that it wouldn’t happen until the den was clean, and I sarcastically added that she was more than welcome to help me work on it Sunday morning.

Whadaya know?  That kid was up before the sun with her sweet little voice at my bedside, “Mommy, I’m ready to help you clean the den.”  Heart be still….and feet on the floor!  Chop, chop!

So we did it.  She made trip after trip after trip to the sink and Bubba’s room and Mommy’s closet as we put away all the junk that had accumulated at the front door dropping spot for weeks.

Then we were done.  And there was this…

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Mostly Chica did all the work.  I fulfilled my obligation of getting the breakable ornaments sufficiently out of reach, but I let her do everything else.  Bubba lost interest pretty quickly, so the other three of us ended up snuggling on the couch while we encouraged her.

No worries that 3/4 of the ornaments are on the bottom 1/3 of the tree.  No worries that the tacky beaded garland crisscrosses in odd patterns.  No worries that more and more of the ornaments are made from recycled “treasures” like old CDs and toilet paper rolls.  It is just perfect if you ask me.

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And finally…

photo (7)

Would it be crazy to say that this particular moment might be my most favorite memory of all Christmas break?

The week before, our life group discussed joy.  I must admit that that night I was so mired down and worn out by work funk and the never-ending back pain that I just couldn’t conjure up a memory that I could definitely name joy.  Happiness?  Sure.  Joy?  Not sure.

But this moment?  It was as if Bubba’s pink sleepy cheeks were screaming out to me, “JOY lady!  Right here! Look around you!  Wake up!”

Joy in…
This kid who never tires of snuggles.
That daddy who snuggles back so I could keep doing whatever it was that I was doing.
The other kid reading to herself in the other room.
A husband who folds laundry.
And that same husband who remembers to buy batteries well in advance of Christmas.
A tree strewn with presents that reminded us how to play together again.

But mostly joy in remembering in my core, in that moment, that not one of those things is something that I deserve, something I’ve earned.  Each is a gift from a Creator that loves me in a way that is oh so much deeper and truer than snuggles and folded laundry and batteries.  But He uses those things, the take-your-breath-away pink cheeks, to give us just a little taste.  To remind us.  To wake us up.

May your New Year be filled with moments that whisper or shout or just straight-up declare to you, “JOY!”  And may we together learn how to look and listen.

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P.S. I’m taking a Facebook break, friends.  Mostly it’s about regaining some of the enormous amount of time I waste there.  I’m thinking, though, that less time wasted means more sleep.  And more sleep might mean eyes wider open to watch out for those opportunities for joy.  I’ll try to let you know how it goes.

Today From A to Z

Applesauce—Both kids ate two cups today at lunch. These days Bubba insists on adding a drop of food coloring each time he’s served applesauce or “yogrit”. Today he had one green cup and one red cup.

Blackwater Creek—We started the day with no plan whatsoever. Scary. By 8:30 we decided on a hike starting at the Farm Basket as our first to-do. Chica couldn’t figure why it was called Blackwater Creek when it was looking so brown today.

Crying—There has been much of that lately. Ugh. We’re trying so hard to teach Chica that she needs to reserve the full on sobs for life or death situations. See U for today’s teachable moment.

Dishes—I find myself being reminded over and over these days that something is better than nothing. Kids, house, husband, God, exercise….seems to work in all directions. Standing over my sink during nap time I rehearsed this line. Getting the dishwasher loaded and started was something. The sink wasn’t spotless and I didn’t finish everything, but doing that much was better than not starting at all.

E-mail—I’m waiting these days on an e-mail from Sallie Mae to say that she has forgiven $5,000 of my college debt for working in a Title 1 school. Any day now, Sallie.

Franky—On our hike this morning we found a turtle. The kids together named him Franky. I snapped a picture of him and sent it to Jay for his daily we-wish-you-were-here reminder. When Jay got home he asked Bubba, “Who’s Franky?” Bubba, in his old man voice, replied without hesitation, “Oh, that’s a box turtle we found on our hike.” I love that old man voice of his. And I love Jay for asking.

Grieving—A sweet friend of ours lost her mama this week unexpectedly. I can’t even imagine. Wish I could have been there for her tonight.

Hammock—When I started my A to Z list tonight, Jay was attempting to fall asleep under the deck in his newly acquired birthday present. He asked if I minded if he slept out there. My response? “Of course not, as long as I get a night out there another day!” I think the bugs have since sent him back inside.

Ice cream—Mommy confession: I have cut out treats after lunch each day for the kids. However, as soon as both kids are down for the count at nap time, the first thing I do is grab a bowl of ice cream. Do as I say, not as I do kiddies.

John—Our life group challenge last week was to read through the book of John. I started much too late to finish the whole book by Thursday, so I’m still working my way through it. Our goal was to read it like a story, focusing on the idea of a beginning, middle, and end without getting bogged down in the details. I’m liking this plan.

Knocking—Bubba heard the sound of a woodpecker on our hike and didn’t know what it was. Chica and I together explained how a woodpecker gets bugs from trees. We never saw the bird, however. Bubba must have asked us ten times in a row, “But where IS the woodpecker?”

Laundry—I came home from the pool this afternoon grouchy because Chica was grouchy. It took two small things to get me to stop moping: 1. I sent Chica to her room until dinner was ready. There was much sobbing, but she actually stayed there. 2. Jay offered to fold the laundry tonight. I love that guy.

Marble game—This toy is still out in our living room…it usually doesn’t make it more than a day! This morning before breakfast I sat on the couch and just watched both kids play happily together for an eerily long time.

Neighbors—Can I just say we have the best? I have such sweet friends on both sides of our house. I started the day with one (See T) and ended the day with the other. We are so blessed.

Omitting words—I should have known. Bubba asked for the Stripes book for the 5th or 6th night in a row. Sheesh this is a long book! So tonight towards the end I started skipping words and a few sentences here and there. Let me tell you, there is no getting by Chica on that! She found me out right away. Jay’s laugh while listening to our conversation from the other room was priceless.

Pool—Bubba’s request for the day was to go to “the pool with a playground.” So off we went this afternoon to Miller Park pool. We have been spoiled with the indoor pool at the YMCA. There was lots of whining.

Quack—Chica is still trying to get Bubba to play along with some (dumb) joke about dogs and ducks. It’s lame, and I think he knows that, but he so wants to do whatever to make her happy. I think the gist of the joke is that if she asks what the dog says, he’s supposed to say, “Quack.” Yeah, I don’t really get it either.

Rip—My dumb joke of the week is calling Bubba “Rip”. Today before nap time we wrestled and tickled and teased. He laughed every time I called him that. He’s easy.

School—I’m trying not to think about it.

Three miles—I’m so thankful for my neighbor friend who’s been dragging me out of the house at an un-summer hour for a run. Today we talked about church, school, kids, pets, and everything in between.

Under the table—We ate on the deck tonight. Under Chica’s chair was a huge spider web and ugly spider. Instead of an, “Ah! Spider!” or “Hey…can you get this spider web?” she just started wailing. Somebody please tell me the drama queen stuff will die down soon.

Vlog—This is what I watched today while folding the first half of the laundry. It’s definitely my favorite background noise for getting chores done these days.

Walk—With a bribe of chocolate, I convinced my little family to take a lap around the neighborhood after dinner. For the first time, we made it without any stops to rest.

X-ray—On Wednesday I took Chica to the doc in the box to get her knee checked out. There was much drama over the knee throughout our quick beach vacay at the beginning of the week. The x-ray was clear, but she was told to ice it and rest. In spite of a fall yesterday off the tall end of the porch with her bike and onto the prickly pumpkin plant (??), she seems to be doing much better. Phew.

YMCA—I love that place these days. Today I swam 25 laps while the kids played in the Kids’ Gym and playroom. Mommy confession #2: Yesterday I finished my workout, took a shower, and since my two hours weren’t up, I sat and read a book for 15 quiet minutes while they kept playing. Eek.

Zucchini—We got our first one out of the garden today. That was a long time coming!

 

This Wasn’t Supposed to Be Bath Day

Tonight at dinner, as Chica leaned toward her plate of pizza, I noticed something in the part of her blonde little head.  It was orange.  Like spray tan orange.  And since I’m sure she hadn’t found any spray tan in kindergarten or at home, there could be only one other cause for this:  playground dirt.  Lovely.

So together Daddy and I tried to explain the importance of not throwing dirt at school.  I’m pretty sure all of the best grown up reasons for not throwing dirt don’t really translate to a five year old:  Mommy will have to bathe you every day instead of the slacker routine of every other (or more?!?) day.  And that orange tint never really washes out of your clothes.  Or mainly just because you really don’t want to be “that kid.”

So while I was busy bathing both kids on this usual no-bath day, I had a few minutes to think.  Mainly I thought about how many memories I’ve let slip away because I haven’t been writing lately.  As I scrubbed out that orange glow, I made myself promise I’d jot a few recent memories down tonight.  The parent e-mails to compose and Jeopardy game to create and the science quizzes to grade and the guided notes to be typed can all wait.  It will wait.  So in no particular order…

*We bought deck furniture last weekend.  We’ve eaten every dinner since Sunday out there.  And when dinner is done, Chica asks to go play on the front porch.  It’s like she has momentarily forgotten that we own a TV because it is so nice outside.  Perfect.
*Tonight my two little people played together without arguing.  I just sat and watched.  Chica would throw the Frisbee down the hill.  Bubba would chase after it and return it to her.  Over and over and over.  He didn’t seem to care at all that he was essentially playing fetch and the one doing all the work.
*Chica can all of a sudden make paper airplanes on her own.  Daddy’s off the hook now.
*Last night Jay made me go to bed, and he did all the dishes.  That is some real love right there.
*Bubba’s really developing his own little sense of humor these days.  One night during his bedtime story he let out two really good toots in a row.  Without skipping a beat, he says in his low, old man voice, “Funny.”
*The last two nights as we’ve read Good Night Moon, Bubba has insisted on finding the mouse on every single page.  I was just about to write about how annoyed we both were by the fact that there was one page without a mouse, but I just found it!  Ha!  I can’t wait to show him tomorrow now.
*Chica insists on asking me every morning if I’m driving the speed limit.  What’s up with that?  One day when I told her no, she of course asked why.  Stupidly, I said, “Cause we’re late, that’s why.”  To which she replied, “Oh…so if you are late and in a rush, then it’s ok to go faster than the speed limit?”  Well…ummmm…no.  Ok, fine.  I’ll slow down.
*Bubba is nearly two and still not sleeping through the night most nights.  These days he walks himself into our room anywhere from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., rubs his cold hands on my arm, and says sweetly, “Hi, Mommy.  Up please.”  I don’t have the energy it takes to say no, so there are three of us in the bed at wake up time every morning.  This too shall pass I guess.
*And finally…ever since Chica was really little, we’ve always had prayers as part of our bedtime routine.  I do the same with Bubba now.  At first he would just make whisper noises for a few moments and then give a big, hearty, “Amen!” when he was done.  Later I realized that he was trying to copy some of the same things that I was praying.  So guess how my prayers go these days?  “Dear God, thank you for a good day. Thank you for Bubba.  Please give Mommy peace tonight.  Please give Mommy peace tomorrow.”  So then, without fail, Bubba’s prayers sound like this:

“Pssspspppsss Mommy sspspsssppss peace sssdpssss Bubba  spspssss Mommy peace.  AMEN!”

Amen to that, Bubba!  AMEN!

Three Memories

I promised myself time to write tonight after I answered all of my e-mails and finished planning for school tomorrow.  2.5 hours later, here I am.  Sheesh.  Whatever interesting ideas I did have for a blog post are long gone and clouded with directory edits, make up work for so-and-so that will be absent next week, and figuring out how I might possibly be in three places all at once on Thursday at 8 a.m.

So instead I have just two memories to report.  No, three.

One. Yesterday Chica came home with paint all over a brand new shirt.  Grouchy Mom asked, “What happened to your shirt???” as we were rushing into Kroger for dinner essentials.  Then Amazed Mom listened as Chica retold the magic that is Kindergarten.

“Oh…we painted.  And we didn’t have to use smocks.  We painted the Aurora Borealis.  I used three colors.  It was like dancing lights.”  And on and on she went about the Northern Lights and the poles and the magnets and the sun and the universe and her friends’ guesses.  Magic, I tell you.  Kindergarten is magic.  Who cares about the shirt?

Two.  What day is it?  It’s HUMP DAY!  And everyone at our (brand new, really awesome) dinner table declared that fabulous fact no less than 50 times tonight over dinner.  It just didn’t matter how many times Bubba said, “Hup Daaaaay!”  It’s funny every time.

Three.  Yesterday one of my sweet students found out I didn’t know how to play chess.  (I know, right?  That should totally be a requirement in my current position…I’m a little behind.)  Before the end of the day today, she had asked me at least three times if she could teach me.  While we waited for buses, she did.  The chess set she picked from my closet for us to use had little symbols on the pieces to tell you how you can move.  Apparently fourth graders can teach old dogs new tricks.  I was just about getting it when her bus was called.  I’m already looking forward to a rematch tomorrow.

How about you…collect any memories today?

Eighteen Gifts Before Nap Time

70.  Accidentally sleeping in.
71.  Nana, who was keeping the kids, so that I could accidentally sleep in.
72.  Leftover pizza for breakfast, washed down with buttered tomato biscuits.
73.  My Saturday morning running group.  So. Fun.
74.  A new friend who slowed down to run with me while I (slowly) pushed my clunky stroller.
75.  Chica’s sweet spirit as we walked from the Depot to the Market.  “Mom…It’s just like we are on a play date.  I like being with you.”
76.  The zigs and the zags.  As we walked the new Lower Bluff Walk up from 9th Street to Commerce, Chica said, “Now we’re on the zig!”  And then we’d make a turn, and call, “And now this is the zag!”  Thanks to the zigs and the zags, we got up a really steep hill very quickly!
77.  The Community Market.  I can’t say enough how much I love that pace on a summer Saturday morning.
78.  The two tiny little kids eating some great big peaches on the back of a farm truck while their momma worked.  The older of the two was double fisting it, and the little girl had juice just pouring down her bib.  What I wouldn’t have done for my camera in that moment.  It was so perfect.
79.  The guy with the goat cheese.  Man, he is one friendly dude, even when I sample his stuff every week and only seem to buy it every thirteenth visit or so.  I’m thinking next week’s the week.  I’m might go for the spicy pimento flavor…it’s a winner.
80.  That extra $20 I found stashed in a pocket of the diaper bag.  The $4 I found in my wallet wasn’t going to make it very far.  My kitchen table is still loaded with tomatoes, new potatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, an onion, Gala apples, and cucumbers.  This summer is going out with a bang.
81.  The lady who piled my bucket of apples til overflowing.  We had already devoured three of them before we were even home.
82.  A calm moment to just sit at the fountain and watch Bubba gnaw on an apple core while Chica hunted for pebbles.  The music, the little kids dancing, the bigger kids rolling down the hill…grabbing my kairos moment for the day right there.
83.  Living room picnics.
84.  Bubba’s giggles and giddiness when I finally convinced him to swing with me.
85.  Free hotdogs at Miller Park.  And that orange paste that can only be a result of kids eating Cheetos.
86.  Pre-K teachers that are (and always will be) magical.
87.  Nap time.  I’m certain I’ve probably already listed this somewhere in my list of 87, but I’m also certain it’s just that good of a gift to mention multiple times.  I know this won’t be the last.

From Two Thousand to Four

I did it.  It’s past 12:00 and my eyes are straining to focus, but I did it.  I cleaned out my inbox of over 2,000 old e-mails.  There are four left:  the teacher workday schedule for the next few days, two e-mails I need to return but am not ready to compose, and a “don’t forget to look into this cool opportunity” reminder.  Phew.

I’m excited to say that this purging of stuff hasn’t been limited to my inbox.  I’ve spent the last three days at school working on clearing out space in my classroom.  My filing cabinet, closet, bookshelves, and cabinet all now have that fresh, organized look that I seem capable of only maintaining for a few weeks at best.  I still have my desk, sink cabinet, and a few (huge) boxes of papers to go, but the hard work has already been done.  I…no….we got this.  Being ruled by peace over here.

I have many things to say tonight about organization and creativity and friends and writing and my little family and, and, and.  But it’s late, and everything’s a bit fuzzy, so I’m just not sure I can articulate anything more than this….

I was struck as I read the subject and first line of each e-mail tonight how memories almost forgotten flooded back to me:

A hurricane.  A school shooting.  The death of a dear friend.  Congratulations for a contest won.  Struggles with students that ended with thankful e-mails from parents.  Room moms from heaven.  A huge project with an old friend. The green light to try a new and crazy strategy.  I need a sub…my kid is sick again.  I am one of the only five people that hasn’t turned something in…again.    And meeting after meeting after meeting.

So what did I learn from those memories?  I’ve sat here waiting for the last five sleepy minutes or so just trying to figure that out.  I think maybe I’ve got it.

When I was a kid, or maybe a teenager, and I would get overly stressed out about some assignment, my mom would always ask me something like, “In five years, will this matter?  If the answer is no, then don’t worry about it.  Get it done, but don’t obsess over it.”

As I recalled many of those memories, I felt again the panic that was such a part of the moment.  Unnecessary panic, I see now, because even just six months later, that thing, whatever it was, already doesn’t matter.

I’ve said it already, but I’m just going to keep speaking it and writing it and praying it.  This year will be different.  This year I plan to trade the panic for a focus on the things above.  A view of the stuff that will matter in six months.  In five years. 

Did my students see a peaceful, Christ-like attitude?
Did my students hear me apologize when it wasn’t so Christ-like?
Did they know that I believe they are capable and important and unique?
Did they come away loving learning and with more questions than they had when they arrived?

These last three days I’ve thrown out over 2,000 e-mails, 5 trashcans full of junk, 4 crates of paper to recycle, and a whole counter full of teacher stuff in my, “Free, Take Me,” pile.  You know teachers just pass around each other’s junk, right?  It takes a long time for stuff to actually make it to the dumpster!

But I have some more to throw away, I realize.  And no, I don’t mean recycle or the Take Me table…because you don’t need it either!

So tonight I continue to purge:
Worry.  Panic.  Frenzy.  Impatience.  Disorder.  Insecurity.  Anger.  Hurry.

More room for peace that way.