A Suburban Miracle

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Want to hear a confession? I am a slacker.

No, really. I am.

I’m a busy person, and it’s hard to imagine busy people being slackers. But it’s true. I am the busiest little slacker you ever did see.

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Here’s why: I have all these great ideas. Big, far-reaching, pain in the butt ideas. And because I have no filter whatsoever, when I think of a big idea, I tell everyone. I get lots of people on board with my big idea, and get everyone all excited. And then I slack off until about one hour until the big idea is supposed to come to fruition. Then I slap something together and call it my big idea. But by that point, it really just looks like a half-assed mess.

And things don’t even have to be my idea. I’ll hear someone else’s big, far-reaching, pain in the butt idea, and then because I have no filter, I will agree to participate – or, worse, LEAD IT! – and before I know it, I’m a slacker who is spearheading a project.

Case and point? Vacation Bible School. VBS at my church is no joke. We have over 500 kids who participate for a full week, and it is super fun. Two years ago, I volunteered for the first time as a mere crew leader (who takes groups of kids around every day) and the very next year, I had agreed to become co-chairman of the preschool portion of the week. And then I slacked off. Only, this VBS thing is a two-year commitment at my church, so now I’m back (this time as the chair) and still slacking off.

And I have a hundred other examples like this. Times when my heart and head were in the right place, but when it came to actually showing up, I slacked off.

Usually, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been this way, and I always manage to get things done (albeit, half-assed). But the other day, Bean had a few words for me.

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We were supposed to bring eggs to school for him. They were doing science experiments with floating and sinking, and each child had to bring in an egg. Bean’s BFF, Elle’s, mom called me to see if I would mind bringing Elle an eggs, too, since they were out. Sure. No problem. I’d be happy to.

Except, I forgot to write anything down to remind myself to get eggs in the morning. And so I took Bean to school… without eggs. I didn’t think a thing about it until I picked him up from school. The minute I walked in his classroom, Bean started chewing me out.

“Mom!” he snapped, hands on his hips. “You forgot my eggs.”

“Oh, gosh, buddy! I’m so sorry! I completely forgot!”

“Yeah,” he continued, “And you forgot Elle’s egg, too.” And just at that moment, Elle appeared and stood side by side with Bean, hands on their hips, looking furious.

“Oh, shoot,” I said. “I’m really sorry, guys.”

And that’s when he hit me upside the head with his next words.

“Mom, you forget everything. I never have what I need at school, and I always have to sit and watch other friends instead of doing it myself.”

Well, that will wake up slack-ass moms everywhere. Mostly, though, it woke me up because I knew he was right. So far in the past two months, I have forgotten the plastic tablecloth I signed up to bring for their Easter party, the tortillas I signed up to bring to their Cinco de Mayo party, a box of Ziplocks I volunteered to bring for one of their art projects, and then the infamous eggs.

It was not my finest hour, let me tell you.

That happened about two weeks ago, and since then, I have started making more of an effort to kick the slacker in me into shape. Because it’s one thing to slack and put yourself out. It’s another to slack and put your friends or co-workers out. But it’s another thing entirely to slack and put your child out. Preschool is a rough place. The kid who doesn’t bring his own eggs… well, let’s just say you don’t want to be the kid who has to borrow someone’s already sunk egg on Science Day.

I’ve spent some time trying to figure out why I am such a slacker. What I’ve learned is that – good news! – I’m not really a slacker. I’m just overly enthusiastic. I want to do it all, and so I take it all on. And then I slack because I can’t handle everything.

So, here’s what I’ve done:

1. I made a list of priorities.  If you’re interested, my top three priorities right now are my faith, my family, and my job.  Then I picked my top three.  Any obligation that doesn’t fit those three priorities is going to have to take a backseat for a while.

2. I stopped saying yes right away to things.  Now, I give myself a few days to make a decision – even little decisions.  That way, I can ask myself, “Does this benefit my faith, my family, or my job?”  If the answer is no, then my answer is no.

3. I only do one thing at a time now.  I was a master multi-tasker.  I could grade papers, check Facebook, write a blog post, cook dinner, and play with my kids all in less than an hour.  But the thing was, I wasn’t doing any of those things very well.  So now, I only do one thing at a time.  And I don’t start something else until that one task is finished.  At first, I thought I was going to take longer doing everything, but that hasn’t really been true.  I save myself the time and hassle of having to go back and do it over again, so really, it doesn’t take me any longer.  And now, I am actually getting things done – and getting them done WELL.

4. I quit doing things that I didn’t want to do.  This week, we were supposed to have dinner with that classmate of Bean’s who I think might be bullying him.  I had made plans with the mom a month ago, and had been dreading the whole thing.  And then I realized, WHAT THE HECK AND I DOING?  I’m allowed to not want to do something.  I’m allowed to say no!  And so, I did.  And I have been doing that more lately.  My time is precious and I can’t be wasting my time focusing on people and things that a) don’t meet my priorities and b) don’t make me happy.  So, I stopped doing that.

It is amazing how freeing these four simple steps have been. I feel lighter and more focused than I have in a long time. I am getting a lot more done, and the quality of what I am doing has been better. My prayer life is richer, my family time has been fuller, and my job is more satisfying than ever before. Bam! Three priorities, a few firm lines drawn in the sand, and I feel like a new person. I mean, I don’t want to toot my own horn here or anything, but BOTH my kids had show-n-tell today, and I remembered BOTH items for them to bring. It’s pretty impressive, really.

Even Bean has been impressed.

Which proves that miracles do happen in suburbia.

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22 thoughts on “A Suburban Miracle

  1. I am very much the same way! I get started on something and then I start to slack off! I should start making a list and doing what you’re doing! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Cheyenne

    I love this post! I am a slacker too. I need to learn to write things down, and to only do one thing at a time. It causes me problems that I don’t need to have. Thank you for this post.

  3. Sandy

    Was that last picture of Bean taken on Egg Day? =o)

  4. Nova

    Cozi has saved my life, sanity, and my kids don’t not have things they need anymore. I set reminders that come to me in a text at whatever time I want. Seriously saves so much time and failure 🙂

  5. Mae

    I’m kinda similar to you…I get so enthusiastic about things and then slack off a bit and I forget things all the time. What I have found that has helped me remember things and special events is to write it in my calendar and set a reminder/alarm. I also set the alarm clock on my phone w/ whatever it is I need to do. Ex: I tend to prep crockpot meals the night before and put the pot liner in the fridge. There have been times that I’ve forgotten to get it out of the fridge…so no dinner that night. I now have an alarm labeled “crockpot” and I set it the night before after prepping my crockpot. I set calendar reminders for play dates, when it’s our turn to bring snacks for school, work meeting, etc. It has helped a lot!

  6. I love this post and I love your blog. I’ve been reading for years. But I think if I was the above-mentioned disliked mom, and I had just invited you over to my home for dinner, and I read on the INTERNET that you don’t like me, I would feel worthless and unwanted. It would suck. How do you know she doesn’t read your blog?

  7. I heard a pastor say the other day that we are all spinning plates. If we try to spin too many they will all fall. Sometimes we have to drop a couple to keep the important ones spinning. They will crash, make noise, people will complain and gossip, but ultimately you are doing what’s best for you and your family and that’s all that matters. Way to go Katie!

  8. HeatherM

    I think the most impressive thing about this is that Bean is so adept at appropriately confronting you when he has a problem with something you have done. He didn’t act out, or throw a fit, or pout (from what you have told us). He calmly yet firmly told you how your behavior made him feel. Do you know how many adults aren’t even capable of that? And the best part is that he learned that from you and Chris.

  9. Good for you! I need to do many of the same things. I’m a master organizer of our calendar but my home takes a backseat because of all that we have going on. I’m with Laura, above, too. I hope the mama doesn’t read the blog. Careful!

  10. Becky

    I’m not a mother or a wife or a teacher, but I’ve been reading your blog since my college days. (Isn’t it weird that teenagers read your blog sometimes?) I think that goes to show that ANYBODY may be reading your blog, particularly those who may share the same demographic characteristics as you. Your blog following has gotten quite big lately, and I think the fact that your blog has multiple sponsors proves this. With that said, I think you should be careful writing about people you don’t like, such as the kid you “think might be bullying” Bean and his mother. As I was reading today’s post, I felt an internal cringe thinking about how I would feel if I found out that someone wrote such things about me on the internet. In addition, IF the mother did read or hear about this post through others, I don’t think it’d be good for Bean. I’m not saying that it would necessarily hurt him, but I don’t see it having any positive consequences either… just something to be mindful about.

  11. DJ

    Do you ever wonder if that mom reads your blog 🙂

  12. Man, you and me are two peas in a pod. Really, you just described me to a T. I might have to take your advice and start using those steps 🙂

  13. I have really been struggling with this as well. I decided just yesterday to write out definite steps to ensure the things I’m working on actually get done instead of doing whatever comes to hand. I haven’t written said plan down yet, though.

    I like the steps you’ve taken to be less of a “slacker” and to be more accountable to people and projects that are important to you. I’m glad to see it’s working so well. You’ve inspired me to actually commit my list to paper…or blog post. Great post!

  14. One of the things I have been doing this year in preparation for the new baby is saying no. I’m a people pleaser and I hate that feeling of possibly letting someone down, but I am really trying to put my sanity and the sanity of my family first. It has been hard, but it’s been a good challenge for me.
    Also: I have to set reminders in my phone to remind me to do stuff like make sure P has his bedding for naptime at preschool, etc. It helps!

  15. Bless you. Nothing like taking a chewing from your own child and knowing they are right! When I was your age I kept a little day book, which was meticulously written in and highlighted for various purposes. That was also when I had two children, a boy and a girl. Life was grand-then I got a big surprise! Two more sons at once! That was when the day books bit the dust and I learned one of the secrets of life: if I write it down I will miraculously be able to remember it. I don’t know why it works, it just does. I test myself frequently due to forgetting my lists when I go to the store, and I pass every time. Hope it works for you too!

  16. Meghan

    Good for you for saying “no”–I am trying to be better at that as I am a people pleaser and hate disappointing someone when they ask me to do something. But I committed myself to a couple of things I didn’t enjoy/didn’t have time for/weren’t priorities, and now I’m trying to be better about not over committing. A couple of things I also do to stay organized and remember things that might help you: 1. I am completely attached to iCalendar. I have multiple calendars (kids’ stuff, appointments, family calendar, travel/visitors, local events, etc), and every thing that needs to be remembered or scheduled goes in there. My husband and I share our calendars so we can read/add as needed. For example, “Colin’s Sharing Day” is a recurring event on my calendar, and each month I update what the letter is for each week when the newsletter comes home from school. I hate holding onto paper, so I put EVERYTHING in notes on my calendar. Kids’ school parties and such go in there too with a note about what I need to make/bring. 2. I also use a lot of Notes (the Apple app). I have “To Do”, “Meal Plan”, “Summer Activities”, “Groupons/Coupon Codes to Use”, etc…..basically anything that needs to be done, used, or remembered is in a note. There are definitely fancier “to do” and list apps out there, but I found I just need somewhere to do a “brain dump” so I could quickly and easily find information I needed. 3. I’m in the habit of checking my calendar and To Do list every day to see what’s on the schedule, what’s coming up that I need to prepare for, and to plan what I want to get done. For big “to do’s”, I try to break them done into little steps (for example “Clean out the basement” had 1. Donate used clothes; 2. Give old toys to friends; 3. Organize gift wrap. ) Hope some of this helps you be organized and remember things more easily!

  17. Becky

    Bravo woman!!!!!

  18. I forced myself to use reminder apps on my phone as well as post its to help me remember things. As far as saying no to things, I also had to prioritize. I was always doing a bunch of stuff in the evening and hardly spending any time with my kiddo or husband and that really put the strain on things. I felt bad that I was letting other people down until I realized I was really letting my family down. That snapped things back in place and now we prioritize family time as well as mommy-daddy date night time.

  19. Cindy

    I use my Iphone calendar and memos daily to put in reminders for everything from kids events to things that I need to do. I also use memos when making my grocery list or making any kind of lists that I need to refer back to.

  20. PJ

    Isn’t Bean old enough to start “helping” you remember? Maybe you can start giving him a new responsibility to to remind you -either at the beginning of a week or the night before – what he might need for school. It should help him feel important and might also keep you slightly sane-er.

  21. Kat

    Admission is the first step 😉 I’m the SAME WAY! It’s a HORRIBLE feeling 🙁 I’ve been trying to prioritize as well…so far I’ve done that half assed too lol

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