In Order to be Efficacious, Love is Rarely Efficient

Do you ever have that feeling where your whole body is tensed up, as if ready to spring into action or self-defense?  I have a war to wage, and it is on messes.  Today hasn't been a great day for cleanliness here in the Cookie Jar.  This is partially due to the fact that I did not have time to put away breakfast dishes and get tidied up before we swooped out the door--running late, of course--to drop Ruby off at preschool after two weeks of winter break.  And then, instead of coming back home as usual, I  went straight up to SE Portland to pick up my friend Kelly and from there take the boys to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, for you non-Portlanders out there).  My mom the magnanimous got us a family membership to OMSI and it comes with a "bring a guest for free" perk.
It was wonderful to visit with Kelly.  Kelly is one of my oldest Portland friends, and we've gone through a lot together.  She got married the summer before I did, and she was one of the bridesmaids at my wedding.  She's older than I am, and has seen a lot of good and ill weave through her life story so far.  We haven't hung out in a while, so it was great to catch each other up on what was going on in life, and to share some of the difficulties we've been going through recently.  It's always amazing how similar our struggles can be sometimes, and yet so often I take great pains to conceal them from even close friends like Kelly. Why?  It's a mixture of pride (not wanting to appear as though I have problems), fear (what if she won't like me when she finds out I have problems?), and over-sensitivity (I don't want to burden her with my problems).  But 9 times out of 10, when I take the time to share what I'm going through, I nearly always find that the person I'm sharing with can either say truthfully that they've "been there" or that they "are there", or at least that they have some sympathy and offer to pray for me or otherwise help me out.  It was great to be able to let Max have a ball at OMSI and get time to talk with Kelly.  Thanks for the membership, Mom!
After I dropped Kelly back at home it was time to go get Ruby, and then it was back home for lunch (with the breakfast dishes all still out and cereal congealing to the bowls--yummmm.)  I made lunch, gave the kids a bit of time to play, and then put them down for naps.  I probably should have cleaned right then and there, but instead I took advantage of a bit of quiet time and called my friend Rhonda and talked to her for awhile.  The kids did not stay in their rooms for long and soon got out and were making all sorts of mischief.  When I got off the phone with Rhonda, this is the scene that greeted me.
In case you're wondering, no, that step stool is not usually kept in their room.
When I asked what was going on, Ruby said, "Well, Max is on a branch, and he's going to slide down!"  And then I REALLY probably ought to have cleaned, but I just had to go and call my mom and ask her a trivia question about where we used to live when we lived in Holland, Michigan, back in the late '80s.  I was probably only on the phone with her for about twenty minutes, but it was remarkable the further mess the kids were able to make in that time.  
And after that it was time to make dinner.  I was also madly trying to make gluten-free cookies for Andy and Alishia, whose second anniversary is today, and I tried a recipe from the back of a teff flour bag.  It did not exactly go well.  There was no binding agent for the cookies, and as a result, they were (A) very flat when baked and (B) extremely crumbly. I couldn't even scoop them off of the cookie sheet in whole pieces.  The crumbs taste good, for what it is worth, but it isn't exactly the presentation I was going for.  I couldn't really do much else about it, though, because after dinner we went to the local parish as we'd been invited to sit in on an RCIA class (the 8-month long series of weekly classes for people interested in becoming members to introduce them to the doctrines of the Catholic church) to see what it was like (and babysitting was provided for the kids, score!).  It was an interesting class, although it went a bit long for two napless wonders and by the end of it they were both kind of zany.  We got home and the kids immediately began to melt down.  Everywhere I turned, there was a mess. The kitchen?  Dishes still out, cookie remnants to deal with.  The bathroom?  Ruby spilled a full cup of water on the floor trying to fill it herself.  The living room/dining room?  Coats, shoes, scarves festooned the couch and floor.  Every surface in the place is full of piles of mail, papers, books, things, stuff.  There's clean laundry to be folded but sitting on our bed.  The kids' room was a total mess; you could barely see the floor at all beneath all of the toys, books, puzzle pieces, stuffed animals, and clothes (Max had helpfully pulled most of Ruby's clothes out of her drawers and strewn them artfully).  Max had the kind of yucky diaper where baby wipes are not enough, so I had to put him in the shower. I knew that if I was trying to shower him I was going to get soaked myself, so I decided to embrace the insanity of one screaming child and get the other one screaming as well.  So Ruby, Max, and I all took a shower (in our little shower stall), with both of them hollering and screaming.  Our poor neighbors.  And then there was still the whole bedtime routine to go through and cleaning the room, etc.  Oh, and Allen wasn't here at all because he had a 10 hour day at work and then went straight to his grandparents' house after work, and he's still there.  
So here it is, nearly 10 PM and there's still so much left to clean up.  It's at times like these when I am reminded that loving people and maintaining relationships are not terribly efficient uses of my time.  I could have used my time more efficiently today by talking to fewer people and doing more cleaning.  And what the heck am I doing now, blogging when I could be cleaning things up?  Well, I will clean up, not to worry.  But people matter, and I need them.  I needed Kelly this morning. I needed Rhonda.  I needed my dad and mom.  I needed to get out and meet some new folks this evening and ask questions and hear some answers.  I needed to take the time to read stories to my kids before nap and before bed instead of just throwing them in bed.  I'm an introvert, so I may not need the company of others as often as extroverts do; nevertheless, when I go too long being insular and introspective, I start to go a little cuckoo for cocoa puffs and it's time to get out there and talk to other people and get some other voices in my head, not just my own.  I think that's also why I enjoy writing on my blog and reading other people's blogs.  It allows my thoughts to escape my brain (like the hole in the kettle that lets the steam whistle out) and it lets me hear the perspectives of others when I can't venture out of the house or to hear from people who live far away. 
So, before I go on to get some cleaning done (because that, too, is a mode of loving some important people in my life--Allen, for starters), thanks for reading and being part of my day.  

Oh, and p.s.  In yesterday's post I wrote something that, upon rereading, I noticed comes across as needlessly sensational.  I mentioned that Allen found out he has two half-siblings but then said nothing more, and that's the kind of thing that sounds like a headline from daytime talk shows.  The short(ish) version is that Allen's parents split up when he was about 16.  His dad left home and eventually made his way down to California, where he still resides.  A few years ago his dad started dating a lady named Michelle, whom we met when we went down there in the summer of 2011 so that Wade (Allen's dad) could meet his first grandchild, Ruby.  Allen doesn't talk to his dad all that often, but this fall when he spoke to him his dad told him that he and Michelle had a son last October and were expecting a daughter around Christmas.  So, Allen has a half-brother named Alexander who is about six months younger than Max and now has a half-sister named Serenity who is about two and a half months younger than Ben.  They all live down in California so I don't know when we'll see them next, but I do want to meet them. It's a bit odd to have a brother and sister in law that are younger than my own children, though!  So, that's the story on that. 


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