Gifts #22-34

Six months ago I started a list of gifts for which I was thankful.  I’ll admit I haven’t made any progress on the written list since then.  Today when I thanked God no less than six times for Elmo’s World, I thought maybe I should add Momo to my gifts.  This, of course, got me thinking about other things that made me thankful today, so here we are…

22.  Elmo’s World.  That fuzzy red guy walks a thin line between endearing and annoying, but today I’m thankful for him.  He’s able to get both kids to sit still for 30-ish minutes at a time so I can maintain a sense of order and sanity (read: load the dishwasher and shower).  Today he also convinced Chica she wants to play the violin.

23.  7:30 a.m. naps.  Actually, it would be more correct to say that I’m thankful for Jay who makes 7:30 a.m. naps possible.  Both kids were up by 5:30, and by up I mean begging to play playdough, Barbies, and ball…all at once.  Since I had been the one enduring the early morning torture, he let me escape back to bed for an hour.  So thankful.

24.  Drizzly mornings.  The last two days we have found fun things to do outside, even while it’s raining.  I would dare to say the park might be more fun in the rain…cooler temperatures and way less people make for a great visit.

25.  New friends.  Just this week I e-mailed an old friend (who unfortunately lives 1,700 miles away) about how hard it is to make new friends.  Today at playgroup there were these glorious few minutes of time where the chaos was at a minimum and we made a tiny real connection as we talked about our families.

26.  We haven’t sold our house.  Yep…I’m choosing to see this as a gift.  It means as we begin to look, there’s no real time crunch.  Today we looked at two houses.  Both had things we really liked, but something pretty big we would want to change.  I’m telling myself it’s a gift that we don’t have to hurry and pick one.

27.  Colossians 3.  I’m still working on the verse about forgiveness, but I had lots of good chances to practice that one today.  A little experiential learning, maybe?

28.  A favorite college professor.  I’m so thankful I’ve kept in touch with her and for the ways she keeps encouraging me all these years later.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

29.  1:00 p.m. naps.  I believe one can never nap too much during the summer, don’t you?

30.  Babies that finally fall asleep on their own.  It’s been a long time coming.  If you’re that mom who feels like it may never happen, I promise…one day it will.

31.  Bubba’s sense of humor.  He is clearly an entertainer.  Every night as he waits for his dessert of “i-keen” after dinner, he gets busy making us laugh with his funny faces and new words.  This has recently become my second favorite part of the day (after nap time, of course).

32.  Elephant and Piggie books.  Read them.  Seriously.

33.  The public library.  Today we didn’t take Bubba….just me and Chica.  SO the way to go.

34.  Old friends.  The ones that rescue you when you can’t take even five more minutes in your crazy house.  The ones that go with you when you have to do something scary. The ones that make work feel more like a slumber party than real work.

What are you counting as a gift today?

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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.

I Just Wanted To Be Grouchy

I wanted to be a grouch this morning.

With drawers (finally) full of clean clothes for Bubba, Jay still picked a hideous outfit for today.  Picture it:  A longsleeve, faded blue shirt with horizontal stripes, bright red basketball shorts with vertical stripes, and water shoes.  It was too late to turn back, though, once I caught a glimpse of this eye sore.

I have stayed up until midnight on the last two nights working on school stuff, and I still have three unfinished huge projects to complete.  How does this happen?

We now have a set of sheets, two comforters, a mattress pad, and a sleeping bag that all need to go to the laundry mat.  Getting over this hump of bed-wetting is going to be the death of one of us.  Who has time to sit at the laundry mat for hours with three unfinished projects still hanging?  Seriously.

But I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t stay a grouch.  She wouldn’t let me.

As soon as we got in the car, Chica was singing her ode to spring.  Making it up as she went along, it was full of the “highlights” (her word) of this season that is finally upon us…

*The winter takes off its mittens so that it can do its job to make us warm
*The leaves are coming out, and they will all be out by summer 
*We don’t have to wear our heavy coats or our boots
*We get to go to school in the sunshine

Oh, and the best part….the summer is almost here, and then “we can do whatever we want”. 

Ok, Chica, I’ll take it.  I’ll take the wet sheets, and the late nights, and the crazy outfits and remember that it is spring, that I have plenty to be joyful about. 

Thanks, sweet girl.

A Few Moments

That moment (6:45 a.m., to be exact) when you start looking for your kid’s shoes and remember where they are.  On the porch.  In the rain.  And he only owns one pair.  Major mommy fail.

In that moment, my brain goes to two places:  1)  Who to blame and 2) How to fix it.  I can’t say for sure which came first today, but most of the time the thoughts come in that order, so let’s go with the blame first.  I could blame Bubba for them being out there in the first place.  Or I could blame Jay for not seeing them when he left the house earlier this morning.  But the truth is that I knew they were out there “drying” and had also commented that it looked like a storm was coming last night…I should have put two and two together.  So amidst my back and forth blaming and pity partying, I moved on to a solution.

Send him barefoot?  His class plays outside now.  Socks only?  Same thing.  Make him wear them wet?  They were literally dripping, so that might be considered torture.  Throw them in the dryer?  Not enough time.  Dig in the hand-me-down clothes in the attic on the off chance that there is something there that would fit now?  The probability is slim.  It seems  there was only one viable option:  get everyone to Wal-mart.  And fast.

Even while I was driving there, I was still riding that merry-go-round of blame and pity.  I actually called Jay and my mom to invite them both to my party.  But every few passes I tried to grab hold of at least the tiniest bit of thankfulness.  Maybe it was a good thing after all that we all got up at 6:00 and not 6:30 because we never would have had time for this trip.  Thank you, God, that I live less than 15 minutes from a new pair of shoes.  Thank you, Wal-mart, for having Bubba’s size in a pinch…and a belt for me because I couldn’t find mine this morning. 

I’m hoping these kinds of moments in the future (because I am sure there will be many, many more mommy fails) will be filled with more grace and thankfulness and less blame and pity.

That moment (7:15 a.m., to be exact) when you know exactly what your kid is getting ready to say, and you can’t stop it.  Your best evil eye and distraction conversation and silently willing her, “Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it,” are all lost.  “MOM, WHY DOES THAT MAN HAVE NO LEGS?”  Too late.

So you do the only thing you know to do.  You grab her by the chin, get in real close, talk real low, and try to explain right there in the middle of the Wal-mart entrance why her innocent question (at 115 decibels) is wrong.  And you pray that he sees you.  That he doesn’t think you are that mom who lets her kid get away with it.  “When you see people that are different, you do NOT point it out.  This can hurt their feelings.  If you have to ask mommy about it, you can ask me way later, when they can’t hear you.  That was very rude.”

It seems we have lots of these chin-grabbing, low conversations these days….about calling people fat, and private parts, and telling the truth, and not giving up.  If even a few get through, I’ll be glad.

Maybe today’s got through, because when he rang up Bubba’s shoes and my belt, she kept her mouth shut.  Or maybe she just didn’t realize it was the same guy.  Either way, he made a joke with us about the belt being “for the kids,” so I assume he had forgiven us.  And I forgave her too.

And finally, that moment (7:35 p.m., to be exact) when you suck it up and just play with your kid.  All you really want to do is check the day’s Facebook posts, or sit on the porch in silence, or maybe even wash some dishes.  (Ok, never mind on the last one.)  But she’s begging you, and you have no real excuse to say no, and worse, a friend who reminded you this very same day about the very same moment.  So you do it.  And it’s not so bad.

And you find yourself dancing on the sidewalk to the music in her head, dramatically passing a bunch of fake flowers back and forth.  Or pretending to be a monster and a little girl from the Brave Human World forming a new friendship.  Then she “reads” you a book in which she makes up every single word.  And you end the night by sniffing the skunk and stinkbug she has drawn on the Magna Doodle, clarifying which one is smellier.

Thanks, friend, for the reminder that I’m not the only one who would rather do anything but the thing that will bring me the most joy.  May we both have eyes to see those things and courage to do them.

“Don’t have a great day, just grab a couple great moments.”  —Momastery.com  

A Few Letters I’ve Been Meaning to Write

Dear New Mommy Friend,

I thought about you and your first week back to work when I was loading the dishwasher last night.  I had this memory of trying to squeeze 37 pump parts and bottle parts into the dishwasher every evening….and then trying to find a place for the real dishes.  This too shall pass, and I’m pretty sure you won’t miss it.  I’m guessing there were tears shed this week.  Those are tears well spent, my dear.

Dear Students,

I couldn’t be prouder of you this week.  When you decided as a group, without my help, to include that little guy (who is very hard to include) in your kickball game, I just stood there in amazement.  And you even let him take a turn as roller, the most coveted of positions.  You made his day, his teacher’s day, and my day.  You rock.

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Dear Neighbor Kid,

Bubba adores you.  And I don’t think it’s just because you wear sunglasses, but that’s at least one of the reasons.  He wants to be just like you.

Dear Weather,

I like you.  Do you like me?  Check yes or no.  You would think I would have learned my lesson with a very similar (and humiliating) note I passed in my sixth grade English class.  Guess not.

Dear Person Who Eyed My Belly and Asked If I Was Expecting,

I thought of you as I grabbed my third cheddar biscuit at church dinner tonight.  The only thing I’m expecting is a little self-control to show up one of these days.

Dear Bubba,

This evening when you hurled on my new shoes, your only shoes, and my Bible, at least you missed Daddy’s computer.  Thanks, and good aim.

Dear Jay,

Tonight when I was hosing the puke off the porch, I overheard your conversation with Bubba.  You told him that what I was doing separated the good mommies from the great mommies.  I thought the same thing about you (except good daddies/great daddies, of course) later as you calmly talked Chica down from her crazy fear of bugs for the umpteenth time.  Thanks for protecting all of us from the scary things.  I love you.

I Make Lists

The Only Things Bubba Won’t Throw Off His Tray
Spaghetti O’s
Mac & Cheese
Peanut Butter Captain Crunch (Thanks, Jay.)

Words I Think Bubba Said On Purpose Today
Ma
Bye
Light

Fashion Advice I Received Before Tonight’s Event
Mother In Law–Wear the gold sweater.
Lori–Suck it up, and wear the heals.
Jay–Hurry up.

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Accessories I Borrowed From Mother In Law For Tonight’s Event
Long, gold necklace
Matching earrings
A fancy watch that doesn’t work

Reason I Didn’t Wear Makeup Tonight
I couldn’t find it

Songs Stuck In My Head
Sweeter (Skip to 2:10)
Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Items Still On My Dresser
Box of band-aids
The tie to my robe
A bag of rocks
Almost empty tube of lotion
Jay’s Bible
A Tupperware container holding my jewelry
A top to some mysterious, missing tin

The Next Three Gifts On My List of 1000 (#22-25)
The kind of babysitter that makes you want to stay out a little later because you know your kid is having fun.
My students’ parents.
Saturdays.

What I’m Praying For
Peace.
Rest.
More peace.

Gifts #11-21

Tonight I am thankful for…

  • Chica’s ability to carry on a conversation with Bubba like no one else can. Last night it was done entirely in shrill screams across the dinner table.
  • A husband who has learned to carry on a meaningful conversation overtop of said screams.
  • Chica’s teacher who went way out of her way to help me today.
  • Bubba’s teacher who called to check on him when he stayed home sick earlier this week.
  • A doctor who called me back well after his office hours to address a concern, and didn’t rush my questions.
  • Chica’s way with words.  Tonight she actually said, “I’m just not up to snuff tonight,” and proceeded to give an exact definition.
  • Chica’s offer to help me.  At 8:30.  And again at 9:00.  And once again at 9:30.  Two glasses of water and a clean sink later, I think she’s in bed for good.
  • An unexpected conversation with a friend who reminds me so much of myself 10 years ago.
  • A boss who grieves and gives us space to grieve.
  • A classroom of 23 who didn’t ask why my eyes were red all day.
  • Friends who’ve been there and can just say, “I get it.” And you know they do.