The Consequences of Feelings

I thought I was just having bad luck with refrigerators this year. The upside to experiencing a freezer thaw is that you recognize it a lot faster when it happens to you a second time (in three months). I manifested my frustration with having to haul everything from the freezer down to the deep freeze and think about what to do with the fridge stuff by having a pretty short temper with the girls tonight. Granted, they were driving me that direction anyway, but I went there a lot faster because the freezer melt-down put me in one of my own.

When we finally sat down to a dinner of salvaged hot dogs and lukewarm milk, I began regaining my own cool. I casually asked the girls if any of them had touched any of the knobs inside the fridge. I got three loud exclamations of “No! We’d never do that!” and one silent look of wide-eyed, “Whoops!” I looked at Millie and said, “Millie, did you turn the knob in the fridge?” She looked at me and shook her head. She’s been known to confess to crimes she never committed, so I pressed a little further. “Show me exactly what you did.” We walked in the kitchen together and I opened the door. She pointed to the knob and said, “I turned that.” I asked her why she did it and she said, “Well, when I opened the door, the air was blowing on me and it made me cold. So I turned it down to 1.”

Mystery solved. Millie felt cold when she opened the fridge. That made her turn up the temperature inside, which had consequences for the rest of us (warm milk – ewwwww). Likewise, having to empty/relocate things from the freezer while I figured it out turned up my internal thermostat, which produced consequences for everyone else. It’s pretty easy to see how we can screw things up for everyone, ourselves included, when we depend too highly on our feelings.

Millie’s was a preschooler’s mistake. I, on the other hand, should have known better.

Teach Me, Coffee Connoisseurs

I don’t know how many times I’ve tried googling an answer to how to make a good pot of coffee. Google usually doesn’t let me down in the cooking department, but I’ve yet to find a satisfactory answer to this simple question: How many scoops do you put in to make a full pot of coffee?

I didn’t enjoy coffee until I saw a demonstration by at a Bulletproof trade show very recently, so it’s a life skill I never learned. We’ve always had a coffee maker for when we’ve had coffee drinking guests, but after making a pot once, our friend kindly suggested he make another (I either made it too strong or too weak – can’t remember now). I now let friends brew their own or, since we live within walking distance of a Starbucks, our real coffee snob friends can just go buy their own. Problem solved.

Anyway, suddenly today I’m really in the mood for a cup of coffee. I just don’t know how to make it (nor do I want to pay $4 for a cup). Can someone help a girl out?

Gas is Driving Us Home

This time last year when we were setting our budget based off of Craig‘s new teaching position, we estimated $300/month for gasoline for two vehicles. This was more than enough and often we had $50 or more left over in that category (which quickly got absorbed into grocery money). When I got us caught up last week after taking a two-month break from balancing the checkbook, I noticed that we’d been spending $400/month on gasoline due to the increased prices.

I’ve never before considered rationing the amount of trips based on how much gas money we budgeted for the month, but it’s beginning to happen now. We cancelled a Florida vacation this summer simply because of the cost of driving there and back. When we filled up last week, our goal was to make it one whole week on those tanks – and we made it, but it was close. Even still, filling two cars up once a week every week is going to be more than $300/month – closer to the $400 a month we’ve been averaging lately.

Craig mentioned today that he heard a story that gasoline could reach $12 a gallon. Seriously? Do I just have my head in the sand here? Why in the world is gas predicted to reach that high? And if/when it does, what is our response?

For sure it means not driving as much anymore, but realistically what do we cut out? The girls won’t be going to the two-day school anymore, which will save four one hour drives each week (it took about 25 minutes to get there, 25 to get back, and I did this twice each time they went to school; if I was the lunch helper, I did it three times on that day). Craig is obligated to drive to work (that’s a non-negotiable), though we can maybe do better about trying to set up a carpool with nearby teachers.

I’m wondering if $12 gas (or let’s be honest, even $5 gas) will make things like the bus or Metrolink raise their prices, too. Yes, I considered parking the van in the garage and locking it in there for a while and taking the bus everywhere. My problem with that is that it would cost us 5 or 6 tickets every time which is almost as, if not more, cost-prohibitive than driving.

I can figure out that we need to say no to extras, but what about the things we consider non-extras? When do we say we can’t afford to drive to the grocery store, to the doctor, to church, to see friends? Will it come down to filling up the van one time each month and that’s it – when it’s out, it’s out?

I’m know I’m not the only one feeling this pinch. What are the rest of you considering regarding these projected (and real) increases at the pump?

Reset

School’s over for this year. That means different things to different families, but for us it basically means the two-day school and accompanying schedule have come to a conclusion. We worked diligently this week to get all the work for the week done before the last day of at-school school so that we would be done when they finished there yesterday. This is the first time we’ve had a defined end to the school year and that feels really, really good.

This is also the first year that I’m dealing with our school stuff immediately. Usually we finally whittle things down to a point we call “done,” and then I leave the school papers and books as is until much later, when I no longer remember where we ended or what I meant to do with it all. I woke up motivated to get it taken care of today, so when the girls woke up, I communicated to them the idea of the “reset” in which we toss what we no longer need, group together like-items of what we do and get it organized now before going into the modified schedule for the summer. They seem to be getting it because it didn’t take much prodding for them to get to work on their respective areas. It helped that I told them I would tackle the school area myself (it was pretty overwhelming).

Another first this year is that I’ve given myself permission to throw away workbooks that are completed or almost completed. This has been really freeing this morning. I know what they did and don’t need to keep all of it to prove it. I chose a few of their best projects from the year to save and the rest is officially history. The girls will participate in standardized testing next week, and after that we will move into a really light summer routine that will include math, handwriting, and reading and won’t be that big a deal at all.

Last summer was nuts for us in the scheduling department (which I take full responsibility for); this year, however, I intentionally left the summer wide open. Craig will be gone for two weeks on Westminster‘s Summer Seminar, and those are the same two weeks I signed the girls up for summer day camps (two will go one week, two will go the other). We’ll hit VBS and a Classical Conversations Parent Practicum and Play Camps in July, and that pretty much takes care of the summer schedule. If we end up moving, we’re set to do so without too much schedule juggling; if we don’t move, we should have a nice long break. We’re ready either way.

I had the thought today that this is the first time in a long time I’ve not needed to either do school with the girls, read a book/write a paper for seminary, or do research/write for GWN (this will change soon, as I’ve been given a new writing assignment that will start over the summer). But, for this moment in time, I have nothing to do that has a deadline attached to it, and it feels amazing.

Happy summer break!

I’m Sorry, But I’m Just Thinking of the Right Words to Say

Craig and Megan 80's

If you need a friend
Don’t look to a stranger
You know in the end
I’ll always be there
And when you’re in doubt
And when you’re in danger
Take a look all around
And I’ll be there
I’m sorry but I’m just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be
But if you wait around awhile I’ll make you fall for me
I promise, I promise you I will

Good times at last weekend’s 80’s party. Incidentally, this is one of the better pictures Craig and I have taken together. We’re living in the wrong decade.

I’m All Smart Like This

I go through seasons when I’m more disciplined in certain areas than others. Sometimes I go through seasons when I’m disciplined in everything all at once (this is rare), and other times I go through seasons when I’m disciplined in nothing at all (this is sadly more common than I care to admit).

The past two months I haven’t exactly kept careful accounting of our finances. When life gets nuts, record keeping is the first thing to go, closely followed by all resolve not to eat my weight in chocolate-covered pretzels. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I don’t know.

Anyway, last week I balanced the checkbook. This was a bigger task than it sounds because I never got around to balancing it in April and here we are in the second half of May already. We had a larger-than-normal amount of unplanned for/unbudgeted expenses come up that were necessary (earnest money, anyone?). So when I’ve not been keeping careful records and I know of several extra expenses that have come up, it makes me tense because I’m not really sure where the bank is going to land when it’s all said and done.

Amazingly (or providentially, depending upon your worldview – I’ll take both, thank you), we also had a goofy amount of extra income (economic stimulus plan, anyone?). When I got the numbers up to date, we were exactly where we should be to enter into the second half of May after a full paycheck for Craig. I know – it was totally the Lord.

So, up to date and fully aware that it was a miracle that I didn’t bounce anything this month, I resolved to do a better job sticking to the grocery budget. This is where I get all smart like this and where you say, “It took her 11 years to figure this out? And why am I reading this goofy blog again?”

I’ve always been a stockpile shopper; that is, I find the good deals and buy a lot of them. And in doing so, I almost always go over our budget because the good deals I find aren’t always what we need right now, so what we need right now also gets purchased along with the stockpile of good deals.

This month I came up with a new plan: I took the allotted grocery money and divided it up into four weeks. I then found the one store with the best deals, located the appropriate coupons, and went to the store knowing I had only one-fourth of the month’s budget to spend. My goal was this: buy enough milk, cereal, fruit, lunch, and dinner items to last us seven days, then get as many good deals as possible with the leftovers of that fourth of the budget.

You want to know why this was so amazing? Because in the past when I stockpiled at the beginning of the month, I usually bought enough milk, cereal, lunch, and fruit to last only one week anyway, with the rest of the month’s budget getting swallowed up on other stuff. Now I know I can go to the store again on Thursday and replenish those things without overspending the budget. Also, I made it pretty clear to everyone that the milk I bought had to last one whole week and if we ran out of anything we needed before the next Thursday, we would just need to do without it until then.

Everyone got this. They understood the need to ration things, and knowing the stretch point was only seven days instead of thirty made it easy to do so. By George, I think I’ve finally got it.
Is it any coincidence that the clearing of my perspective and rationale is happening during our last week of school? I don’t think so.

I don’t think so.

I Found the Middle

When we decided to make an offer on the house last week, I completely fixated on all the negatives: it needs a complete kitchen and bathroom overhaul; it needs new windows; it needs A/C or some kind of cooling system installed; it needs a new garage door and a major landscaping plucking. Big things there to fixate on.

After placing the offer and imagining us living there, I swung the complete other direction and drooled over all the positives: there’s a third floor attic that can be turned into a fabulous room one day; there’s a full unfinished basement with level floors and high ceilings which could also be turned into an amazing guest space one day; the house has a laundry chute from the second floor to the basement (I have *always* wanted a house with a laundry chute); there is an amazing study with a walk-out porch on the second floor too, so Craig could finally have a real office to write in; the house is across the street from good friends (two sets of them!) and is within walking distance from other good friends.

I think the friends thing is what I will be most disappointed about if, when it’s all said and done, we end up not getting to live there. Oh, and the laundry chute – I’m going to be seriously disappointed by not getting to have the laundry chute.

When the bank turned this into a game of real estate roulette, I lost my nervous edge. I’m not worried anymore. It really might not happen, but I’m honestly not devastated by that. So, as I said before, the list price was X. We offered 40 below X and they came back with 22 above X. Then we offered 30 below X and they offered 12 above X. We said, “No thanks,” but told them our offer was still on the table should they change their minds.

And now we wait. This is what usually makes me crazy in a short-tempered, frazzled, get-lost-while-driving sort of way. But I’ve had one of the most seemingly cliche verses* popping into my head for the past week. What you need to understand is that I don’t lean toward the cliche very often, nor do random verses I memorized decades ago come popping into my head at random times very often. But in this case, I’m very glad it keeps popping into my head. I need to hear it and, hearing it, I need to believe it. God does know the plans He has for us. He’s declared it. His plans will prosper us and not harm us. His plans will bring us a future and a hope. And His plans could very well include this house we’ve prayed for, or could mean staying exactly where we are. I’m okay with it either way. I wasn’t last week. So this is the growth of forced patience and while not something I seek, is something I’m glad for.

God knows we desire to do good things with the bigger space. He also knows we’re capable of doing good things in the space He’s already provided. The question I’ve had to answer is do I know that? I think now I finally do.

*By cliche, I only mean that it gets used over and over and over to the point that it seems to lose its meaning. I’m sure I’m the only one who has experienced this, so please don’t be offended that I called a Bible verse cliche. Of course it’s not. It’s the people who use it who tend to be. Sometimes. I’m done now.

Two Down, Two to Go

Eleven years or so ago we were in the wedding season of life with all of our friends. Shortly after this, we entered baby season. We are now currently in graduation season, which isn’t difficult to understand given that we’re in seminary and Craig’s a high school teacher.

My brother-in-law graduated with his D. Min today in Kansas City (congratulations, Spencer!). We were going to go, but the girls have their end-of-the-year choir performance tomorrow afternoon and we couldn’t swing the drive time. So, since we ended up being home, we were able to make it to the first graduation (Covenant‘s) and first two graduation parties of the season. Both parties were ones we wanted to go to and enjoyed being at, but both wore us down in the introvert department. Still, they were fun and we’re glad we went (congrats, Mitchell; congrats, Rob and Claudia).

After the 80’s party tonight, I needed to turn around and take the babysitter home. She lives in one of the many surrounding St. Louis County townships that I’m not familiar with and, after dropping her off, I got badly turned around and could not figure out which direction was which. The car was almost out of gas and I was somewhere unfamiliar in the dark with no idea which way I should be headed. And I was dressed just like 1986.

I had a moment’s hesitation upon pulling into the gas station. I mean, I had to get out of the car and everything. While filling up, I realized that I could probably go inside and ask for directions to the interstate. And then I looked down and saw this:

80's Stylin'

I remembered how much purple eye shadow I put on and how frizzy my hair was and I had yet another moment’s hesitation before I took the plunge and walked into the gas station to ask for directions. Either that gas station lady has seen it all already or was just too bored to care. She was very nice, looked me right in the eyes as she gave me clear directions to I-170, and wished me well on my way out the door. I was so grateful to be pointed in the right direction, I no longer cared what I looked like walking back to the car.

Craig will attend Westminster‘s graduation on Monday, and we will all go to Wildwood‘s next Saturday. Then two more parties and that should wrap up graduation season for this year.

Now then, time to scrub off the purple and the glitter and go to bed. Night!

Where’s a Banana Clip When You Really Need One?

We’re going to a graduation party on Saturday night for these tired finished wiped out totally brilliant seminarians. Dude, it’s like totally an 80’s party.

I had an 80’s party for Craig when he turned 30. He Who Will Not Be Surprised totally was, and it was a really fun party. We had some 65 people crammed into our small house and it was everything I imagined an 80’s house party to be like because, you see, I never went to an 80’s house party. I was too busy wearing Laura Ingalls jumpers and listening to Keith Green on my cassette tape player.

But being a homeschool-wannabe then didn’t mean I was totally exempt from all the amazing fashion of the 80’s. Despite my fundamentalist roots, I was a firm believer in the big bang; and Keds with colored socks; and jellies; and big round glasses; and a frizzy perm I tried to bring back two years ago, but then realized there was a reason it died in the 80’s.

All that to say that we can do 80’s. But I was worried about this party because I haven’t given it much thought yet (other than that I needed to find a babysitter). Where does one find a banana clip this late in the game?

So, while I was upstairs sewing and stewing over important things such as which shade of blue eye shadow to wear and where I might locate some big dangly earrings to dangle, the gray clouds parted and the sun began shining right into my 10:25pm bedroom. We have Craig’s letter jacket in the trunk in the living room. Oh yes we do. My wardrobe problems for Saturday night are officially over.

My boyfriend's jacket

I think this, paired with a denim mini-skirt, will do very nicely.
By the way, Woottons, congratulations. Well done!

Good/Bad

First the good: I cleaned off my desk tonight.

Clean Slate

Now the bad: Everything that was on my desk is now on the table.

Desk, Relocated

In other news, we heard back from the bank today. This process is going to take a while as they aren’t playing fair. They had the price of X listed on the house. We offered a substantial amount below X. They countered with a substantial amount above X. I didn’t even know it ever worked that way. They are smoking something if they think we’re biting on that bait and switch. We can’t afford X, let alone 30K above X. Craig is optimistic, though, and he’s ready to fight. I’m more in a pit of despair which manifests itself by cleaning, thus the desk shot above. Me in despair might be good for our house for a few days, but not for me for very long.

I’m not even sure why I’m this disappointed. Two weeks ago we hadn’t even thought about moving. We’re in a great rental in a great neighborhood and if we end up staying here it’s totally fine. Someone remind me of that, please.

Now then, back to my desk. I don’t know why I can’t keep this area clear. I have a piling disease. Anyone make a pill for that?