Friday, September 26, 2014

The Day Mommy Decided Not to Clean

It's the Bizarro Pottery Barn Catalog!
What would happen if one day mommy decided not to clean? This past Saturday, I discovered the answer.

I engaged in an experiment. It started based on an argument I had with my husband the night before where he complained that the house didn’t need to be as clean as I thought it needed to be all the time. 

Thoroughly offended, I decided to see just how shambolic the house would get if I left everything up to my family to clean. Maturity has never been one of my stronger suits (although seriously, my vocabulary rocks!).

So I decided to test his theory and didn't clean up like I usually did. I mean, I did nothing. I didn’t put glasses away. I didn’t pick up trash on the floor. I didn’t ask anyone to pick up their shoes, make their beds, put the dirty clothes away, take out the trash, or bring in the barrels from the curb…nothing. Later in the day, I also ruled out closing cabinet doors and drawers for my untidy roommates. 

Little did I know that no one in the house had any perception of disorder besides me. I also didn’t realize how ingrained it is for me to pick up after everyone. I picked things up and then forced myself to put them right back down at least ten times. Needless to say, I felt completely pissed off at everyone who lives here. 

I took these photos at 2:30 pm Pacific Time.  Just to be clear, I debated about whether to show these photos online. That’s how irritated and embarrassed I am. 

I either need less remotes or a bigger table...
Hey look! My neighbors across the street must be doing the same experiment!

Part of me wants to just sweep this infernal game out the slider...

The sad thing is that this is typically my neater child.

Fort blankets...I really hate forts.

The white line at the bottom concerns me.

Ooops! One of those smoothie glasses was mine.

Honestly, this is typical. Neatness is not one of her natural talents...

Clean teeth, filthy bathroom.

It is important to me to tell you that the house is messy, not dirty (well, except for maybe the kitchen floor…it’s always pretty vile). We clean every Saturday, except this one, of course. I have a strict regimen of chores with specific standards for completion that my kids choose from each Saturday morning. 

They call it chore-morning. Or as we mom's call it, morning. 

By 5pm, the mess had spread and I was positively fuming.

Facing dinnertime in the house of the clutter, I wondered where on earth I  was going to serve it! I decided to tell the kids to set the table and see what happens. If this coffee can placement is any indication however, I didn’t have high hopes.

No, seriously…just put that coffee can anywhere.

At 5:44pm, my husband came in from his bike ride. He was looking at his stats online just as I was finishing up dinner. I still wasn’t saying anything about the mess and neither was he. The only acknowledgement between us that the house was messy was when he asked me why I was taking pictures of the house earlier, questions to which my answers were purposefully vague. Instead, we had a normal conversation amid the piles of junk mail, trash, dirty dishes and abandoned board games. He told me about his ride, asked about dinner, and went to take a shower.

I was keeping my cool, but just barely. I wanted to scream out in my most sarcastic tone, “Seriously?” but I maintained my composure. I decided to serve dinner buffet style and let everyone figure out where to sit to eat it. I called everyone to dinner.

My husband came in from the shower, no doubt having just stepped over the towels and clothes still on the floor from last night. 

I also like how the shower head is left to dangle.

First he says, “Wow, dinner looks great!” Not a bad start. 

Then he said words that made me love him more than ever. “Kids, I have an announcement to make: after we eat we are going to clean up this house. This house is an absolute disaster.”

I knew there was a reason I married this guy.

I started this experiment to teach my family a lesson. The funny thing is that I was the one who learned things from it. Although it pains me to admit it, messy wasn’t all bad. On the plus side, I had time to write this post, read my book, and take a nap in my unmade bed. So I guess living in a chaotic pit has its advantages. The most important thing I learned is that my husband likes it tidy, too, even if he doesn’t get itchy about the state of things as quickly as I do.

So is it kind of tricky and underhanded to run an experiment like this? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Definitely. Is my house clean today? 

You Betcha!

Friday, September 5, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

As if!
By Terri Lively

It’s official. Summer vacation is over.  This time of year always makes me feel nostalgic, and not just because I have a second to think since my older two kids are at school for the better part of the day. I am sure each of you has at some point participated in the annual back-to-school essay topic, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” In the spirit of back-to-school euphoria, I offer you mine.

I shuttled my kids to every affordable day camp I could find.

In truth, they should call summer vacation, "Summer-child-care-will-break-you-ation." I spent well into the 4 figures this year keeping all my kids occupied so I can pursue my writing career. Since I am not exactly a bestselling author, my business was operating on the break-even theory for the weeks my kids were in camp.

Camp weeks were infinitely better than the weeks they weren’t in camp, however as non-camp weeks were operating on the don’t-break-anything-over-their-little-heads theory. That phrase served as a mantra for me as the threadlike strand of my last nerve strained and trembled in the mounting pressure of trying to create magic in my office that doesn’t have a door while my kids were home.

I said no to screen time. A lot.

I mentioned before in my post about TV how I created frenzy about the magical talking box by limiting it to one hour a day. My progeny now value this hour above all others in their day. Considering that we now have iPods, computer, Wii (we are old school here), and TV, I had to extend the limit to two hours and call it all “screen time.”

So when the amount of “screen time” is limited to two hours, the result was that by 9:30am, they had used all their media time.  Now I had distasteful duty of saying, “No!” for the next 11 hours to the constant and desperate query, “Mom, can I watch a show/play the Wii/have more computer time/use the iPad/play Minecraft?” 

How many times did I do this? Let’s just give a low of estimate five times a day per kid times 85 days in summer vacation…425 times.

Tried to clean the gunky ice cream dried on the bench in the kitchen for eight weeks.

Right at the beginning of summer vacation, we had a celebratory ice cream cone party at our house. What we were celebrating, I don’t remember but you can bet that it was my kids’ celebration, not mine.

My three-year-old had a cone as well, but since he only knows how to start a cone and not how to finish it, he left it on the bench in my kitchen, to melt into a disturbing sticky puddle of goo. At some point, I picked up the cone and tossed it, blanching at the mess underneath. No doubt in my fastidious efforts to stay the destruction of my house and belongings by my progeny, I went to go clean up the mess by retrieving the proper cleaning supplies. 

My only guess is that I discovered the batteries were all over the counter in the laundry room where I keep the cleaning supplies needed for the ice cream mess, and so I put them away. When I started to leave the laundry room, I noticed a broken picture frame that had been knocked off the wall next to an abandoned light saber, in the hallway. So I went to get the vacuum to clean up the glass, when I found that the filter for the vacuum was still outside drying in the sun since I had rinsed it out after cleaning up the popcorn mess from the night before. When I went to get the filter, I noticed that the gravel had been tossed all over the patio (also by the three-year-old) so I started tossing it back in the planter…

This activity went on for eight weeks, like a frustrating version of, “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Only mine is, “When You Give a Mom a Cleaning Task.”

And the gooey, foamy ice cream mess is still there.

I found my inner rat hunter. 

There is a neighborhood cat, Hurley, who prowls our tract. She is lovely and loves us, so she spends a lot of time at our house.

Hurley, who is not my cat, caught a rat one day and brought it to us. The only problem was it wasn’t dead. Hurley, who is not my cat, set the rat down in my house where, after a comical bout around my living room accompanied by much screaming and squealing by all of us, it ended up inside my couch. Since we were leaving on vacation the next day for a week, this was a bit of a problem for me. It was not a problem for the cat, apparently, because Hurley, who is not my cat, lost interest and left. 

After we had put the kids to bed, I found my husband on the rat couch, eating ice cream, and watching a movie. I said, “Should we be sitting here on the couch with a rat in it?” He assured me that the rat left while we were putting the kids to bed. For some reason, I believed him.

Later, after Brenton fell asleep, the rat reappeared. I resumed my frantic squealing, rousing my husband into action from a dead sleep. Arming ourselves with weaponry (brooms), we battled the rat for the next 45 minutes, simply trying to escort it back outside. It was a struggle. At one point after missing the rat, my husband dropped his broom, raised his hands in the air and squealed like a little girl.

He redeemed himself. He soon gave the rat a slap shot right into the wall. If it had been a cartoon, that rat would have had little birdies floating around its head. Then together we sprang into frenetic broom action that would have made an Olympic Curling team proud and evicted that rat from our home, where the rat sat on the mat (in truth, the rat passed out on the mat, but that didn't rhyme!).

Leaning his hands against the now closed door and hanging his head as he realized I would recount this event to everyone I know, Brenton said, “I would appreciate it if in the retelling of this story there is more emphasis on the slap shot and less on the squealing.” Consider it emphasized, mighty rat hunter!

The rat also disappeared, although whether it died from blunt force trauma to the head, just woke up and walked away or was confiscated by Hurley, who is not my cat, is unknown to this day.

So that’s how I spent my summer vacation. How did you spend yours? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.