Too. Much. Stuff.

I have a vacation coming up on Friday.

Yes, a vacation.

A bonafide vacation.

Like the kind where you go to the beach, and stick your feet in the sand, and lie back, kick up your feet, read a good book and just REST.

I have never, EVER been on a bonafide vacation before.

I used to dream about them as a little kid when my mom would sing the “V-A-C-A-TION” song to us at the end of every school year. I always wondered what one of those would be like. I mean, sure, we took road trips as a family… went to fairs and explored big cities and visited museums and went to see family… but it was never a “Rest and Relaxation” kind of vacation. Even my honeymoon. We went to Chicago (I know… Chicago?!) and walked ten miles every day and didn’t have time to rest and relax because we had to see everything in a span of four days.

So, this vacation? This is a big deal.

But I digress. This post isn’t even about the vacation. It’s about the prep work leading up to the vacation… which leads to other work… which leads to ridiculous frustrations… which leads to ridiculous blog posts. (Stay with me, peeps. This all makes sense in my head.)

So, yesterday, in preparation for this vacation… I did some laundry, cleaned out the fridge, cleaned out the litter box, and then took a gander around my apartment and decided to clean. (You know, because one’s home cannot be too clean before embarking on a vacation. I mean, what would the cat sitter think if they were to see your home in utter disarray?!)

absurd

I know, Nick. I know. I deal in absurdities.

SO, anyhoodles… I’m all… cleaning... and I come across a stack (yes, a stack) of … gifts… given to me by well-meaning parents and students. Gifts that have been piling up since Christmas of LAST YEAR. Gifts that have been piling up since Christmas OF LAST YEAR (thus the need for the stack) because… I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH THEM.

It seems wrong to just… toss them… they are gifts after all… but they are gifts that I will literally NEVER-EVER use.

EV-ER.

The apple cinnamon mini candle? Tell me you didn’t just regift that because you panicked at the last minute realizing you didn’t have a gift for the teacher.

The teeny-tiny apple picture frame? Whose picture am I supposed to put in there? Your child’s? I didn’t even like your child that much.

The mini book of inspirational teaching quotes? Do you honestly think I’m going to put that in my purse and pull it out when I need some wise words of encouragement? Um… Honey? Ain’t NO teacher got time for that!

The Mod-Podge glitter vase with my initials in it? Really? REALLY?

The LIP GLOSS?! Is that some kind of passive aggressive insult or were you just super desperate for a last minute gift?

THE BOX OF SPICES?! (SPICES?!?!) The ENDLESS array of teaching angels. The mugs… the mugs, the mugs, the MUGS! ALL THE MUGS ALL THE TIME. The candles and the calendars and the rosaries and the note pads.

I don’t know what to do with it all!!!

too much

Me too, Kevin. Me. Too.

Now, before you get bent too out of shape… I’m really not that mean and ungrateful. ANY time a student or a parent gets me anything, I’m always super surprised and delighted. I never expect anything for simply… doing my job. So, the fact that parents and students take the time to get me something always gives me the warm fuzzies.

It’s just that… once I look at the stack at the end of the year I’m all…

pile it up

But after a couple years of doing just that…

too much 2

(You guys… I’m going to let you in on a little secret… all the stuff? I piled it into a box bound for Good Will.)

Shhhhh…. No one will ever know.

Truly… I’m not trying to be ungrateful… but I have enough of my own stuff to contend with… stuff which also needs to be gone through and shipped off. (Heck, I haven’t even gotten through all the things from my parents’ house that I need to do something with. So, forgive me if I get all discombobulated with your candles, and picture frames and itty bitty books. It’s not you. It’s me.)

From now on, the only gift anyone will ever receive from me (Unless you explicitly state, “Annie. I would like item number 09283XL48 in red from page 243 of this catalog.” – I love that I assume people still shop from catalogs…) is a gift card. Because I know what you do with all the other gifts I have ever gotten you. You toss them. Or give them away. Or regift them. Because there is such a thing as TOO. MUCH. STUFF.

 

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Growing Up

I know, I know, I know.

I haven’t posted in like… forever. (Actually, I HAVE posted… I just didn’t publish what I wrote. So there. Because I’m sneaky like that…) But, in my defense, I totally have a job I’m preparing for and WAY too much work to do in my classroom and WAY too many workshops to attend to justify spending any time dinking around on here…

Until, of course, I do.

Ahem.

ANYHOODLES… let me get you caught up.

I finally finished up my last day of the “Summer Child Care Gig” on Wednesday. And that’s when the weirdness started happening

I gave all the kiddos a gift…

I gave all the kiddos a hug….

I did not account for the fact that two-thirds of the kiddos were going to get emotional at my departure. And when the eleven year old started talking to me with tears in his eyes, asking why I couldn’t stay to watch them open their gifts…

I nearly ran out of that house on account of the ever-growing lump that had taken up residence in my throat.

And then I fought back tears the entire drive home.

Um…

WHAT.

For all the grey hairs I have accumulated, and all the times I cried over misbehaviors; for all the times I pulled my hair out, and bargained with God to just let it end; for all the times I ran home to barricade myself in my apartment JUST to get some peace and quiet… It never once occurred to me that all the struggles and trials I had to go through with these monkeys actually made me FOND of them… I actually had learned to LOVE them throughout the course of this crazy experiment.

And you want to hear the REALLY crazy thing? I. Have. Grown. Oh, my good grief, how I have grown. As a teacher, as a woman, as a Christian. They challenged me and stretched me and pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways I never thought possible… and… and… I can’t believe I’m going to say this… They made me a better person.

I have more patience and compassion. I have a greater understanding of how children think and work and feel and deal with things. I have more grace, more mercy, and more love than I did just three short months ago. I discovered how hugely difficult and yet hugely rewarding raising kids can be. I also realized how much I want to do that whole “Mom” thing people refer to so often.

But most of all, I learned the following:

  • Kids don’t know what they want to eat until you’ve made the exact opposite of what they thought they wanted. You make pancakes, suddenly they want Ramen noodles. You make Ramen noodles, suddenly they want sandwiches. You make sandwiches, suddenly they want pizza. You know what? The kitchen is closed. You eat what I make.
  • Asking kids to pick up their socks (or underwear or shoes or backpacks) is the equivalent of child abuse in their eyes.
  • Never EVER go through the drive-through until you have thoroughly prepared your order and rehearsed it 16 times over so they’re absolutely SURE that what they say they want is actually what they want. Otherwise it’s mass chaos and shouting as you try to place an order. (My apologies to everyone at McDonald’s and Dairy Queen. I did my best.)

⦁ Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order?
⦁ Yes, can I get two chicken nugget Happy Meals, one-
⦁ No! I don’t want that! I want-
⦁ You JUST SAID –
⦁ But SO and SO is getting that and I want –
*Prolonged silence*
⦁ Um…. I want…
⦁ Honey, you need to hurry. They’re waiting for us.
⦁ Um… I don’t know, what do I want?!
⦁ A CHICKEN NUGGET HAPPY MEAL?!?!
⦁ No…
⦁ I’m sorry can you give us a minute – OR FIFTY-TWO WHILE WE GET OUR DUCKS IN A ROW?!

  • Never wake up a sleeping child for ANYTHING. Not for music lessons or golf lessons or swimming lessons. Don’t. Do. It. Pretty much just don’t schedule ANYTHING for summer mornings unless you want to face the wrath of an overly tired child ALL DAY LONG.
  • If you want to get kids out of the house at a certain time, you have to start getting them ready 2 hours in advance. I made the mistake of assuming one hour was enough time. ONE HOUR IS NEVER ENOUGH TIME to find missing shoes, put on clothes, brush teeth, eat breakfast, and run back and forth to the neighbor’s house 16 times before leaving. And if you think it is, then you didn’t account for the fact that you will inevitably be running BACK to the house halfway to your destination because they forgot their blanket, book, or favorite water bottle. (And if you think you can avoid turning back for those things, prepare for the meltdown that is about to ensue.)
  • Don’t bother planning ahead. Kids have the attention span of gnats. As soon as you make a decision about one activity, they’re off and running to a completely different activity. (Sometimes, just to spite their siblings… or their babysitter… whichever one they’re gunning for that day.) As soon as everyone is packed up for the beach, they throw their things down and take off running to play “War” with the neighbors. It’s inevitable. That’s why I never knew what was happening on a daily basis.
  • The pee will never fall where it is supposed to. Ever. Don’t even fight that battle. It’s just not worth it. Just carry Clorox with you everywhere. (My apologies to anyone whose bathroom we may have used…)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re all, “Well, those aren’t the MOST important things you learned this summer, are they?” Oh, but they are. Because learning these things also taught me not to sweat the small stuff, that structure isn’t everything, and sometimes, flying by the seat of one’s pants is what makes life so enjoyable. If we can’t laugh at the screw-ups and the messes and the frustrations, we’re going to be pretty miserable in this life. So just take it in stride. It’s all part of growing up.

The Petulant Child and You

As an educator, child care-giver, and human being, I know all too well about the petulant child.

It’s not all that unusual to be yelled at.

Or screamed at.

To witness objects being hurled across the room…

At your head.

To try to break up shoving matches and choke-holds.

To attempt a “voice of reason” in the midst of tantrums.

To have doors slammed in your face.

To be the recipient of rude, snarky comments.

To be argued with until you simply stop talking out of sheer exhaustion.

To walk on eggshells all day long so as to not “poke the bear”.

I’ve seen moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, teachers, pastors, and tutors freeze in fear at the appearance of a petulant child because it’s a very delicate dance to correct a child while de-escalating a situation. You come on too strong and they explode. You don’t come on strong enough and they walk all over you. It’s basically like dealing with a ticking time bomb.

batman

In children’s defense… kids DO have a lot to deal with these days, and sometimes their minds and bodies just aren’t equipped yet to handle it. Lack of sleep, hunger, busy schedules,uncertainty, overwhelming expectations… sometimes the kiddos simply don’t know how to handle everything going on within them and in the world around them and they just explode. It happens. It’s not always excusable, but it happens.

I was having one particularly challenging week this past year that I simply didn’t know how to deal with. Children were exploding all around me. One was hungry, another was overly tired, this one’s cat had just died, that one’s parents were fighting… you name it, and they were dealing with it and so…

hedgehog

Clearly, I am the hedgehog in this scenario…

That evening, I sat down and just cried. I didn’t even want to pray about it. I was too exhausted and fed up and SAD that I was failing in every possible way with these children. But because we need to pray the most when we feel like praying the least, I figured I could at least share all this with the Lord.

So, I made the sign of the cross, sat there in silence for a moment, and launched in with a wail of, “Lord… you can’t make me go back tomorrow!” And then I exploded.

I may not have thrown anything or put anyone in a choke-hold, but there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and maybe some questions and accusations being hurled about…

What do you want from me?!

Why won’t you help me?!

Why do the children hate me?!

I don’t know what else to do!

HEEEEELLLLLLPPPPPP MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

So much so, that by the next morning I woke up with a swollen face and such a sense of shame and embarrassment about the explosion that I quickly confessed it and asked forgiveness. (I know God is a “big boy” and He can certainly handle our explosions, but still… Get it together, woman.)

And so, I got up, washed my face, and immediately started praying for guidance, help and wisdom for the day ahead. I told the Lord that I didn’t know what else to do, so I needed Him to take over completely.  I was out of ideas. This was his ballgame.

As I was driving to work, coming over the crest of a hill, the Lord spoke to me. In so many words, He suggested that I was overly tired and in dire need of some quality rest.

That’s when I burst out laughing.

Sleep? SLEEP?! OVERLY TIRED?!

YES! Yes, I was suffering from lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion! Yes, that was partially why I had exploded the night before! And how many times had the children in my care exploded for the exact same reason?!

I could complain and wail and be all, “Woe is me” to the Lord all I wanted… but in that scenario? I was the petulant child! The overly-tired, demanding, whiny, bratty child who couldn’t keep it together anymore and instead exploded in a safe place where I would be forgiven and loved and consoled. And if the Lord could be patient, long-suffering, and kind to me in the face of my explosion, then with His help, I could and should extend the same grace to the children in my care. Because, with God, we’re all petulant children sometimes. But He doesn’t give up on us. He doesn’t throw up His hands in exasperation and walk away saying, “That’s it. I’m done.” No, He continues to love us and guide us and direct us and correct us… explosion after explosion after explosion.

And ever since then, God has given me more grace and more patience with the kiddos in my care than I ever thought possible. Because now I can see myself in them. We are all the petulant child sometimes.

 

I’m not even going to title this one…

The following conversation may or may not have happened today.

Even though it totally did.

Child 1 to Babysitter: Babysitter! Child 2 won’t stop saying the word, “Nipple”!

Babysitter to Child 2: Child 2, don’t use that word.

Child 2 to Child 1: But you did! You punched my nipple and now my nipples hurt!

Child 1 to Child 2: Stop saying “Nipple”!

Babysitter to Child 1: Why would you punch your brother there?

Child 1 to Babysitter: I didn’t mean to punch him in the nipple…

Child 2 to Child 1 (screaming… just in case the whole neighborhood hadn’t already heard): But you did punch me in the NIPPLE! And now my NIPPLES HURT!!!

Sometimes there is not enough coffee in the world…

But hey, the entertainment value is priceless.

Control Freak

I don’t know if this has come across in any of my writing, but I tend to be a major control freak.

As in, I must take care of everyone and everything including those things that are not my concern because inevitably someone is going to drop the ball on something and the sky will fall and the world will erupt into mass chaos.

Unless, of course, I’m allowed to be in control.

Because… duh.

I don’t even know how I got to be this way. Youngest children aren’t usually control freaks. Youngest children aren’t the hyper-responsible, take control, high-achieving types. They’re usually the go-with-the flow, laid-back, “someone else will take care of it” types. I don’t know which gene was switched on at birth, but apparently, I have yet to experience the luxury of functioning like a typical youngest child. It’s honestly exhausting. I literally exhaust myself.

“Why are you always so tired?”

“BECAUSE, I AM TRYING TO MAINTAIN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING AND RIGHT NOW YOU’RE DISTRACTING ME WITH YOUR INANE QUESTIONS, SO IF YOU’LL EXCUSE ME, I HAVE AN ACTUAL JOB TO GET BACK TO… YOU KNOW… “CONTROLLER OF THE UNIVERSE”???”

sassy

Seriously…

I wish I could be “chill” (as the kids these days say…). I wish I could trust someone else to just take over, but I can count on one hand the number of people in my life whom I actually trust enough to “be in charge”. Not only “be in charge” but also, “do things the right way”. Because there is a HUUUUUUUGE difference between “being in charge” and “doing things the right way”. Very rarely do you ever meet anyone with that magical combination of “being in charge” AND knowing how to do things properly (AKA the way I would do them) and when you meet them, it’s like capturing a beautiful, magical unicorn that you never, ever, EVER want to let go of. Because being around these magical creatures is the ONE opportunity you have to just… relax… and not worry… and instead you get to watch them carry the control freak burden around (quite capably, I might add…) and somewhere in the midst of watching them capably handle everything the “right way”, you discover you’ve actually fallen in love with them…

dreamy

Ahem… Not that that’s ever happened… ’cause… that’d be… weird.

But inevitably, these magical creatures must spread their wings and fly away to unknown lands in which to spread the same joy and happiness to other control-freaks all over the world.

And just like that… I’m back to making sure everything is running properly.

Until, of course, I undoubtedly trip over myself and my good intentions and make not only a disaster of everything, but a complete fool of myself.

(I just love when that happens.)

And when that does inevitably happen, there’s God, just waiting… wondering if I’m done… wondering if I’m ready to give up… wondering if He’s one of the lucky, chosen few that I trust enough to take over.

And usually I am… until I’m not… because let’s face it… real true control freaks can never completely give up control… right? Because… sure… you can trust God but… it’s just that… He may not do it the way you think He should do it.

Um… all due respect, Lord, but… you’re doing it wrong.

That’s supposed to go over there.

And you’re timing is all off.

And that wasn’t on my five-year plan.

And I can see how you might think that would be a good idea, but I’m gonna tell you right now… it’s not.

Because, I already tried that. It didn’t work. I mean, you’re welcome to try it again, but… in my experience, it just wasn’t happening.

But… you know… to each their own… If you want to give it a whirl, by all means, have at it.

And then, just as you’re ready to take back the reins and get back on the horse (Because clearly God Almighty needs your help…) He gives you a wink and a nod and tells you on the way to the grocery store…

“Be still and know that I am God.”  ~Psalm 46:10

And you’re all, “Okay. Got it. Sorry. I’ll let you be in charge. Again.” But you only do it half-heartedly because you have a plan and you’re just going to go ahead with the plan because the plan is the plan and YOU NEED TO STICK TO THE PLAN!

And then, that evening, as you open your evening prayers in “Magnificat”, the following words jump off the page…

“Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today…. The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”  ~Exodus 14:14

And the next morning’s scripture calendar reads…

“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that NOT OF YOURSELVES: IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD.”  ~Ephesians 2:8

And just in case you still haven’t gotten the memo, the second reading at that morning’s Mass states….

“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the SURPASSING POWER MAY BE OF GOD AND NOT FROM US.”  ~2nd Corinthians 4:7

Until FINALLY, you have to conclude that maybe, just maybe…

GOD WANTS YOU TO LET GO AND LET HIM.

Which is the hardest thing for a control freak to do.

But really… who is going to be more capable, more competent, and more adept at handling ALL your situations… in being the ULTIMATE control freak who not only knows how to take control but will do it PERFECTLY (He’s not even going to do it well. He’s going to do it perfectly… with perfect timing, perfect means and a perfect end result…) than your Heavenly Father?

Seriously. How dumb do we have to be before we let go?

my bad

Sorry, Lord. My bad.

I mean… I think He’s got this.

 

Feelings… Nothing More Than Feelings

You guys…

I had some feelings today.

Usually, before the feelings can get the best of me, I do this :

60fbf108267cf5cc245097bd64bcff0c

But, I just couldn’t fight this feeling anymore…

feelings 3

I’d forgotten what I started fighting for…

feelings 2

It was time to bring this ship into the shore…

bring it in

And throw away the oars…

oars

Forever.

forever

(Why YES, I DID just make a Giphy montage for an REO Speedwagon song… because I AM that awesome. Thanks for noticing.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes. The feelings. All the feelings.

I was perfectly fine not dealing with the feelings. I’m an expert at not dealing with feelings.

I just shove them deep, deep down into the cavernous depths of my soul where they will never see the light of day again.

But then I ran into a friend… who was having feelings… and at first I was all,

dont be cry

But she kept talking about all of the feelings…

And somehow the feelings got ON me…

And… before I knew it…

giphy

And the kids were staring at me like I had lost my ever-lovin’ mind…

You guys…

I hate it. I hate the feelings.

Feelings are hard.

I used to not hate the feelings, but I’ve had so many hard, ugly-cry, grief stricken feelings the past few years… that I just can’t do it anymore. Feelings are the worst. I avoid them at all costs. I don’t want to feel anymore. It hurts too much. So, I just keep jamming the feelings down, down, down, down, down in my heart.

WHERE?

Down in my heart to stay.

And never see the light of day.

But some “people” say that’s not “healthy”. Well, if it’s so not “healthy”,  why do all the feelings eventually erupt in a production of GLORIOUS madness once a month? Huh? HUH?!

Oh…

(It just occurred to me what those productions of glorious madness actually were… I’m not the most self-aware person.)

At any rate, those feelings had no business rearing their ugly heads. I’m a lady, for crying out loud. I don’t cry in public. I am made of stone. And my heart is two sizes too small.

(Basically, I am a man, trapped in an itty-bitty girl package.)

Please tell me someone else has this problem with the feelings. Am I an anomaly? Are all girls just, “I’m gonna let it ALL OUT and SPEW MY FEELINGS ALL OVER EVERYONE BECAUSE EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW EXACTLY HOW I’M FEELING AT ALL TIMES!!! Is that how girls are now? If so, what’s wrong with me? Why the running and the stuffing?

*sigh*

I have so much to work on, don’t I?