Success in the Midst of Chaos

Life is so busy these days.

Honestly, I feel naive to even say that. By this point in my life, I’ve come to realize that life is busy. Period. Different seasons have different feels. Some seasons have more peace than others. But all seasons of life are busy in their own way. Life is, was, and always will be busy.

So, yes, my life is busy. But it’s also one of those times that feels unpleasantly busy. When that happens, I tend to scale back wherever I can. This week I skipped our co-op and a rosary group that I really enjoy. Perhaps that was counterproductive, as I love the time I spend with those ladies, but not having to get all five littles out the door and monitor their behavior at both of those events was a huge relief for me.

Busyness (Despite several online dictionaries’ assurance, I’m still not convinced that’s how busyness should be spelled.) aside, we’ve accomplished quite a bit around the house. Since we’re going to be moving within the month, which is not something we had planned, we have quite a bit to tackle around here. Lucky for me, my stress projects have put a very positive dent in all that needs to be done. This week we have also:

IMG_7585

My sweet Andy helping paint our kitchen when we moved in back in 2010.

1. Painted both boys’ rooms. Ben’s room was covered in crayon, not because I allow my children to color on the walls, but because Ben always finds a way to cut or color or spread toothpaste or glitter on things that shouldn’t be cut, colored, toothpasted, or glittered. Andy and Jack’s room was just gross. There was like this gray funk over all the walls. It must be a growing boy thing. Both rooms are now beautiful and neutral. Hopefully they will remain that way for the next month.

2. I cleaned the grout in the master bath. Seriously – do other people struggle with grout like I do?? It’s just gets so nasty. Is there some secret to keeping it clean? Or an easier method to clean it? Toothbrushes and magic erasers are the best methods I’ve found. Needless to say, there will definitely be no grout in the new house after we renovate. I hate grout! It is my house cleaning nemesis. Fortunately, all the grout in my house is almost clean. All I have left to tackle is the kitchen.

And somehow, in the midst of all the chaos of everything else going on…

3. …I had a really great little visit with one of my confirmandi. Well…he’s not a confirmand anymore – he was confirmed last spring, but I don’t know how else to refer to him. Anyone have a cute way to refer to the kiddos they’ve sponsored for Confirmation? Anyway, he texted because he’s having a tough time and wanted to chat. He came over Monday afternoon and we had a great little visit while my kiddos ran around like lunatics. Even though it was a great visit, he needs some prayer. Would you mind offering a quick prayer for him?…………….Thanks!! :)

So that’s it for me. Small successes in the midst of crazy, busy, chaos. But, hey, that’s life right? Share your small successes over at Small Success Thursday. Make it a great day!

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Stress Projects

KeepCalmStudio.com-[Crown]-Keep-Calm-And-Complete-A-Stress-ProjectI have been super stressed out this week. On top of some smaller stressors that I’ve been dealing with, my hubby and I are making a major decision. We’re considering an opportunity that would cause some major stress, but also (hopefully) bring great rewards. I’m terrible at making decisions of any kind, but it’s way worse when the decisions are important. As we pour over pros and cons and would-bes and could-bes and should-bes, my stress level has reached heights I haven’t seen since I quit working outside of the home.

I’m not so great at coping with stress, so, at first glance, I thought I was going to have to sit out this week over at Small Success Thursday. I realized that it’s weeks like these that particularly call for a recognition of one’s small successes, and, after some thought, I discovered the silver lining to my stress.

I don’t handle stress well. I get really irritable and short-fused. To try prevent myself from attacking my family while they sleep, (I’m exaggerating – no need to call C.P.S.) I scale back on everything that I possibly can scale back on to deal with the task at hand. School gets turned down to the bare minimum: reading, math, and catechism. I make really easy meals. I don’t do the laundry. I don’t do a lot of playing with the kids. I just go into crisis mode and deal with the task at hand.

At some point I get really frustrated because I can see all that I’m putting to the side, yet I also realize that I’m not making any visible progress on whatever is causing all the stress. Then I start doing projects. I choose things that I know I can do well and see through to completion. I do this to compensate for the inadequacies I’m feeling in regards to my daily routine and other areas of my life.

I don’t go through this process intentionally. In fact, I’ve never even thought through this process before today. But this is how I operate under stress. Always.

I know that in reality this process is just a really poor coping skill. But my poor coping skill has a silver lining: I get things crossed off my to-do list that I would never otherwise tackle. I will forevermore refer to this maladaptive coping skill as my stress projects. So what did I take on this week?

1. I cleaned the grout in the hall bathroom, foyer, and laundry room. We have light grout and a lot of people in our house. I’m embarrassed to say, it gets dirty – really, really filthy. But now, thanks to my stress projects, it’s clean in several rooms of my house!

2. I weeded a lot of the front yard. We have a tiny lot, but this year it was absolutely overtaken by roadside aster. Embarrassingly overtaken. It looked like a carpet of little white flowers. But, in one of my efforts to avoid the tasks at hand while simultaneously making myself feel accomplished, I got out in the yard and tackled the weed problem – or at least a big chunk of it. We’d tried putting some weed and feed on it last month, but it didn’t work. Thus, my efforts were needed, but not something I normally would have taken on willingly. It looks so much better now!

3. I made festive halloween treats to send to work with my hubby. Back in the day, I used to make treats for my hubby to take to work with him from time to time. Thanks to work and grad school and multiple pregnancies, I haven’t done it in years. As I was working on the treats, I actually asked Josh what made me decide to make them. (Not because I was complaining but because I really couldn’t recall what gave me the idea to do it.) I didn’t realize it at the time, but it, too, was a stress project. A super cute stress project, if I may say so myself!

I’m so grateful for Small Success Thursdays. I really was feeling like a failure this week, knowing how grumpy I’ve been and seeing all that I haven’t done. Because of SST, I actually stepped back and realized that, while I may have come up short in a lot of areas, I succeeded in some areas too!

Bath Time Multitasking

mop the bathroom

That’s also what I mean when I say I cleaned the bathtub.

Maybe that’s bad…

But I just tell myself that I’m multitasking.

My Cleaning Dilemma

These aren't my cleaners but this is what my setup looked like.

These aren’t my cleaners but this is what my setup looked like.

After nearly a year of making my own orange vinegar cleaner and using it to clean the kitchen and bathrooms and anything else that needs cleaning, I’m calling it quits.

It all started when a well-meaning friend came to visit. She walked in the door and the first words out of her mouth were, “Oh. I can smell you use bleach to clean your house.” The words were dripping in disgust. “I quit using bleach years ago. I just can’t expose my family to that.”After she left I did a little internet research to see what all the fuss was about. She was right; bleach is scary stuff.

Around the same time I saw something on facebook about how to make your own orange vinegar cleaner. This was good because Josh hates the smell of vinegar. Truthfully, so do I. Just about the only thing I like about cleaning is the fresh, clean smell afterwards. Vinegar just doesn’t do it for me. It’s incredibly useful in more ways than I ever imagined, but it just doesn’t smell good. The orange vinegar cleaner promised a fresh citrus scent.

Sadly, it didn’t deliver. I tried several different methods, each with varying success, but never really achieved the fresh citrusy scent I longed for. Terrified to return to my good friend bleach, I tried to convince myself I’d learn to love it. But I didn’t. Yesterday, while I was scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing the shower (vinegar takes more elbow grease than bleach), I literally threw in the towel. I hated the smell; I hated the extra work; I just don’t like this approach to cleaning.

I dug through the cleaning cabinet, desperately hoping there was some chemical I accidentally left behind when I rid our house of all the toxic cleaning agents I was so very attached to. Success! In the very back there was a can of Scrubbing Bubbles. I sprayed the shower down and mere minutes later I had a lemony fresh, sparkling clean shower stall. “That’s it,” I said, “I’m through with green cleaning. I’m too busy for it and not satisfied by it.” I went and threw out all the jars of orange vinegar cleaner that were marinating in my pantry. (Perhaps that was a tad dramatic, but what’s done is done.) I told Josh about my reversion. He laughed and said something along the lines of, “I told you so.”

I was liberated! I was relieved! I was going to write a blog about how you can still be a good mom and clean with bleach! (And Pine-Sol, which is my very favorite cleaner in the whole world!) Then I made the mistake of linking the harmful effects of bleach to the beginning of this article.

no toxic cleanersI really don’t want that in my house. (Even though I already had Josh bring home a bottle and have used it several times in the few hours it’s been in my house.)

What’s a busy mom to do? I’m riddled with guilt either way. I don’t want to be slowly poisoning my family. But I also don’t want my family living in filth, which tends to happen when I take the naturally cleaning approach. Because it takes extra work and doesn’t leave me with the victorious smell of clean, I just put it off. And then things get nasty. Yesterday, there was pink mold growing on the edge of the shower when I started cleaning! I’m pretty sure I heard somewhere that that’s toxic too.

I clearly don’t have the answers on this one. Maybe I’ll go back to my baking powder pastes and vinegar sprays. Maybe I’ll give hydrogen peroxide a try. Maybe I’ll just use the cleaners I like, but leave the windows open those days. Maybe I’ll just use the cleaners and try really hard to forget what I’ve read about them. I just don’t know…

Who knew cleaning could be so problematic?