As many of you know, a few weeks ago, our family fell victim to the stomach flu. I'm talkin' buckets hangin' out by bedsides and midnight rushes to the bathroom. It was awful. Literally. It was my hell.
Anyway. Since that fun passed, we still haven't totally recovered. Our appetites still aren't quite what they used to be, we're still shakin' the tired feeling and the desire to nap every afternoon. I guess, one could say, we're still recovering.
As the flu came and went, I fell quite behind in my housework – as one would expect when one is spending more time with the bathroom floor than with the broom and dustpan. Laundry quickly piled up, sheets needed to be washed, bathrooms needed to be scrubbed, and the floors were dis-gust-ing (I know because I lay on the floor staring at them for quite some time).
Slowly but surely, as we came back to the land of the living people who can actually keep food in their bodies, I got caught up. But then something happened.
I decided to submit to the madness.
I'm not talking about living in filth or not caring enough to wash our dirty socks.
Instead, I'm talking about Shaye learning how to loosen the wad in her panties in a serious way.
It has been my desperate prayer these past few weeks, as I've struggled in my patience with our children, to make our home a home of peace. A home that has an aroma pleasing to the Lord. A home where children get to see the Gospel in action. I have prayed fervently that the Lord would help me in my desire to always have things just-so, including my children's attitudes and actions.
Have you ever tried to control your child's attitude and actions? That works about as well as trying to wrestle down a pig slathered in Vasoline.
The past week, instead of writing myself a to-do list that included no less than thirty tasks to complete for the day, I wrote myself a to-do list that consisted of two or three. And that's it.
After milking in the morning, I'll come inside, sip my first cup of coffee, wash my face, put on makeup, and pull my hair out of my face (I find this does wonders for the ‘ol attitude). Then, it's time for Bible reading and breakfast. After Stuart leaves for work at 7:00, the kids and I quickly wash up the breakfast dishes so that we can go about the rest of the day with a clean kitchen. They are dressed and have their faces washed and teeth brushed.
Does it sound productive? It is! But that entire process ends at about 7:45.
Normally, I would instantly jump into one of my million must-get-done-today tasks, leaving the kids to play and fend for themselves for a few hours each morning. As productive as this time could be, it led to separation and stinky attitudes for all of us. Every day.
These days, I keep my expectations low – aside from the daily tasks of milking, feeding the animals, and dishes.
Here's an example of what I mean:
Straighten up bedrooms and vacuum
Straighten up mudroom
Wash laundry/put away
Make bread and snacks
Sweet & mop floors
Do an outside chore
You know what this means? It means that by Sunday my bathrooms desperately need to be cleaned again and by Monday we're probably out of bread. But it also means that I'm sane, balanced, relaxed, and joyful in my service to my family.
Because I'm not as worried about completing so many tasks, it's much easier to bring Georgia alongside to help me. Whether it be cleaning the bathrooms, organizing a dresser, or baking snacks for the week, she's happy to lend a hand. And Praise God! I want to teach her how to do these things. I want her to be an active participant in managing the home! I want her to see me completing these tasks with joy. All those days I tried to complete so much that I gently shoved her aside for the sake of ease and productivity, I was actively pushing her away from the woman I want her to become.
As hard as it is to admit, I'll say my house isn't quite as picked-up as it once was. But amazingly, I'd say that it's just as clean! I've just come to the terms with the constant state of the pillow-and-blanket “water fall” all over the floors and the ever present stash of toys in the living room. Tricycles line the hallway. Tiaras and magic wands litter the kitchen counters. There's a trail of boots stretching out for ten feet.
But I DON'T CARE. I've submitted to the madness.
Instead of picking up the toys eighteen times a day and getting frustrated when they'd once again get pulled out onto the carpet, I've found myself laying out on the ground and building Lego towers. I've built porches out of blankets and chairs, read Pretty Princesses about 8,374 times, and turned Owen into a magic king with my special song at least a dozen times a day.
Instead of trying to make cheese and a fabulous dinner all in one day, I've been giving away more of my milk, making cheese less, and simplifying meals even more than normal. That way, instead of prepping and cleaning for hours each day in the kitchen, I can spend time with the littles doing something much more important (though Georgia is quite happy to help me prep dinner during Owen's nap time).
I've saved folding laundry for night when Stuart is home to help. Two sets of hands is much better than one and we can chat about our days as we quickly put away the piles. This has saved me a ton of time and frustration. Ever tried to fold laundry with a three and one year old? I die.
I've made extra effort to get rid of any clutter in the house that “isn't useful or I don't believe to be beautiful”. Less clutter means less to organize, maintain, dust, and put away each day. And it's helped the work load a lot.
Maybe some of you are saying “Ya. Duh, Shaye.” But unfortunately, it's just my nature to be ambitious and want to complete no less than 37 tasks per day, at the end of it sitting down with energy enough to type a blog post and enjoy my perfectly clean home.
*Cough* Shaye, you're a fool. *Cough*
You know, it's quite funny actually. All these days I've been praying that I'd be granted an extra measure of patience for my children so that I could complete my many tasks in peace. Instead, the Lord gave me the opportunity to do less so that I could enjoy my children more, all but eliminating the need for patience in the first place.
He's sneaky, that one. Always working in greater ways than we can imagine.
It may have taken me a few years of fighting it, but I'm really praying that I remember submitting to the madness is a beautiful thing.
I can't do it all. I shouldn't do it all – all that does is make me bad at everything.
Sure, maybe when the FedEx driver drops off packages I'll cringe at the two bags of garbage sitting on the porch. And perhaps visitors will judge me toothpaste-stained bathroom sinks. And maybe I'll miss having access to hallway (it's currently blocked off with a ‘castle wall' – obviously).
But I'll never regret enjoying my children more. And spending time molding and teaching their little hearts. And heck, I'll say it. Napping with them.
God has given me great peace in getting off my high-horse of accomplishment, casting my idol of perfection and productivity into the depths of the ocean, and getting on knees to rock out on the Mickey Mouse guitar.