Thursday, February 26, 2009

Who Wants a Clean House?

I love the show Clean House. I've seen just about every episode. It is one of the few guilty pleasures I have, and I only get to watch it a few times a week. Tom can't stand the show, mostly because the host annoys him and he can't understand how people can live in super cluttered houses.

I like it for several reasons. First, the obviously voyeuristic nature of it is entertaining. It's interesting to see who gets put on shows like that, who turns them in and how they deal with the world seeing their huge mess. I know myself that even if my house was completely trashed, I would clean it non-stop if I knew someone was coming over with a camera. Gasp! It has to be so unbelievably embarrassing for the people who end up on the show - I mean, they can't honestly believe that it is normal to live like that, right?

I like it because it gives me lots of interior design and organization ideas. They are pretty creative with the organizing, especially with closets and small spaces. With the girls sharing a room, I need to be too. My kitchen is much smaller than it really should be, and I find myself reorganizing it too. The office is my sore spot, since it has to multipurpose and seems to be perpetually cluttered. I love decorating the house, and have a strange obsession with painting. I love to paint. It's kind-of therapeutic to me I think. I like the idea that I can transform something almost instantly, and I'm good at it. Just don't look in my stairwell - I got a little overambitious one day and started painting before I realized I had no way to reach to the top of the 2-story walls. Still have to figure out a way to finish that project.

I think the reason I like the show the most is that it helps prevent me from letting the house get out of control. I would be mortified if it ever looked like that when someone came over. It provides me motivation to keep things put away, in the place where they are actually supposed to be. I like that it makes me feel like my house is reasonably clean and clutter-free. And it cracks me up when the girls sing the Clean House theme song as they are picking up their toys. Nah, nah, nah, nah, yeah. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I love doing laundry, which is probably a good thing considering how much of it my family can generate. I consider myself a stain removal expert - and there is a very short list of things that I can't get out of clothes. So far the only things that I absolutely cannot get out (unless the stain has been run through the dryer of course) are gel ink and dry-erase marker. Pretty much anything else, I know what to do.

I have an arsenal of stain removers. Of course, I have the stain sticks and sprays. But those don't work for everything. There are specialty stain removers for blood, milk and mustard. I have used vinegar, rubbing alcohol, peroxide, salt, dishsoap, nail polish remover, bleach and hairspray. Depending on the stain, I know what I need to use. Some things need to be soaked, others need to be washed immediately. Some things can sit and wait to be washed, others are like ticking time bombs - take too long and the clothes are ruined forever.

I did not get good at laundry until I had 3 kids. Before that, I could let it go for a few days, wait until all the baskets were full or someone ran out of underwear. Once you get up in the number of people though, the necessity of daily laundry becomes evident. I have to do laundry continuously. On average, I probably do 3 or 4 loads a day. Yes, a day.

I tried an experiment a few weeks ago. I waited a week. Took 6 glorious days off from the laundry, trying not to cringe at the ever-growing piles. I was not going to give in and throw a load in the washer. Finally, a day shy of my weeklong goal, I had to do it. I couldn't take it anymore. The dirty clothes were swallowing up the house. The pile of clothes was easily 5 ft by 5 ft, 3 ft high And I am not overstating. It took me 4 DAYS to do all that laundry, and as a result I learned that the experiment was a miserable failure. If it took me 4 days to do 6 days of laundry, what is the point of waiting? I'm back to every day now.

The laundry varies seasonally too. Welcome to Colorado. Winter and Summer are the worst. Spring and Fall, not as bad. In Winter, things get wet, snowy, dirty and cold. In summer, they mostly just get wet. And muddy. My kids are drawn to mud like a moth to a flame. They play hard and can easily go through 5 or more changes of clothes a day in the summer. So, while you would think that there should be fewer dirty clothes in the summer, because they are smaller, the exact opposite is true.

We don't have a distinction between good clothes and play clothes. I figure that clothes are meant to be worn, and if the girls want to wear their fancy dresses to dig in the sandbox, fine. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but not as many as you might think. If they want to change over and over again, I let them. If it's dirty, put it in the pile. If it's clean (which is rare!), please fold it and put it away.

The kids are well aware of my obsession. They know they have to take something off if it gets stained. They don't even flinch if I tell them to take something off before they eat spaghetti. Ashley is so aware of it that she told a friend's mom that she needed to change her shirt while she was at a playdate after she spilled chocolate on it.

I love to do laundry. I love the challenge of a good stain. I love the satisfaction of conquering mystery spots. But I hate putting the clothes away - that is my downfall. And I hate folding socks. I need to be better about it, I know.

I love to do laundry so much that I totally have OCD about it. There is no way that anyone else could understand the method to my madness. That they could know which stain remover is necessary. What can go in the dryer and what must never touch the inside of it. What loads need fabric softener, stain boosters, fabric softeners, and which ones don't. How much detergent needs to go with each load. How I want particular things to be folded. Which shirts belong to Ashley and which belong to Ally - don't want to mix them up! Tom learned long ago not to touch it. He knows better. :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tax Season

I hate tax season. Really. Obviously, it a necessary evil in the accounting profession. As long as Tom stays in public accounting, there will always be tax season. It comes every year, seemingly earlier and earlier.

From the outside, people can always see how hard it is for him and offer their sympathy. And it is hard for him. He works ridiculous hours, and the stress gets worse every year. This year is particularly bad, primarily because of a shortage of employees. He's up before daylight, home long after the sun has gone to bed. I ask him what he wants for dinner, and the reply is usually, "food". He doesn't care - just provide basic nourishment.

Weekends are no longer weekends during tax season. Saturday is just another weekday - with him at work usually until at least 5 or 6. Most Sundays we are collectively just too tired to do anything.

Tax season is hard on him, certainly, but it's also hard on me. During this time of year, just about everything falls on me. It would not be so bad, except the girls always have hard time without Daddy around. They have a built in sense about when he is supposed to be home, and when he isn't, they miss him. I'm constantly explaning to them that he will be home later. I think the hardest part is that with him getting home so late, we eat dinner later. I refuse to sacrifice family meals for the sake of tax season, and so we try almost every night to eat together. As a result, the kids are up a little later, and getting them up in the morning is a little bit harder.

It will be April soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Tornado

I put a lot of conditions on moving to Colorado, one of which was that Tom had to promise me that there weren't tornadoes in the area we were headed to. He promised. They happen, he said, but super rarely, and almost never West of the I-25. He lied.

Last May, on the last day of Ashley's preschool, we went to the park by their school for a class picnic. Aidan was in first grade, and at school all day. I had both the girls with me, and was finally starting to show being pregnant. It was a beautiful morning, with no warnings or watches posted.

When we had been at the park only about 20 minutes, the winds seemed to shift. We thought nothing of it at the time. Soon it started to rain - a quick passing thunderstorm, we figured. So, there we were, about 25 parents and about twice that number of kids, huddled under the shade structure waiting the storm out.

Except the storm didn't let up. It started to hail. Then the hail got bigger. And bigger. And bigger, until it was golf ball sized. By this point, kids were scared and crying. The shade structure had a metal roof and it was so loud we couldn't hear anything but hail and crying. The hail was bouncing off the ground and hitting us all in the shins. We huddled closer to the middle. The sky was getting darker and darker, almost a greenish color.

One of the moms had a weather alert program on her cell phone. Luckily, it must have been on vibrate mode because she looked at it. Tornado warning, Longmont. She showed it to the teacher, who peeked her head out from the shade canopy. Only then did she hear the sirens. The hail on the roof was so loud we didn't them.

More kids started crying, unsure of what exactly was going on. We quickly decided that the little shade canopy would provide absolutely no protection, and we ran, in small groups, to the cinder block bathroom. Over 70 people crammed like sardines into this teeny little park bathroom, praying for a miracle.

On that 25 foot run to the bathroom, some of us (myself included), made the mistake of looking up at the sky. Trust me, if you've never seen a funnel cloud above your head, consider yourself lucky. The pricipal called someone's cell phone and told us that we needed to get back to the school. We knew she was right - the bathroom was better than the shade structure, but it wouldn't save us if the cloud touched down.

So we ran, again. Carrying kids that belonged to us, and kids that didn't. We ran to the closest cars we could get to. Jumping over gutters that had become roaring rivers, wincing at the sting from the hail. Our legs would have the bruises to show for it later. We drove the two blocks or so back to school, ran to the kindergarten pod in the middle of the school and hid under tables and desks. For hours.

I found Aidan, hiding with his entire class in the girl's bathroom. They clearly didn't realize that it wasn't a drill. The older kids did, but the first graders were happy there, sitting in a dark bathroom listening to the teacher read stories. He was safe, as safe as any of us were that day.

I tried to call Tom about a million times, but the storms were messing with the reception. No one could get calls through. Even the land lines weren't working right. I finally got a hold of my in-laws and told them to get word to Tom that we were at the school, on lockdown. No one in or out of the building until the watches were canceled.

After a while, the storms eased and they told us that the kids could go back to their regular classrooms. The preschoolers and their parents could go home. I couldn't leave, not with Aidan still at school. I couldn't leave him there without me, so I stayed. A few of us did that - sitting around the tv in the preschool room, waiting for the day to end. Only after a few hours did the adrenaline start to wear off and the gravity of the day start to sink in. What if that funnel cloud had come down? There were so many kids out there with us.

I learned a lot that day, about Colorado and about myself. I learned that you can never, ever trust a weather forecast here. The weather can change in an instant, and you have to be prepared for anything. I also learned that I can and will do anything to protect my children. I was calm when it was all happening. I had to be brave for them, and I was. Only later, when the threat of the storms was over, did I get scared. I can honestly say that I have only been afraid for my life twice - one was the Northridge earthquake, the other was the day of the tornado. The tornado was different though, I had kids. I had to protect them and there was no time for me to worry about myself. There was no time for fear. The only thing that mattered was making sure that they were safe.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mom Superpowers

I have superpowers. Really. Ask the kids, and they'll tell you it's true. Having kids is basically the equivalent of exposure to the radioactive goo in a comic book - instant amazing powers.

I have eyes in the back of my head, so the kids think. This is one of the superpowers that moms can fake and get away with. Aidan actually asked me once if I did, starting looking through my hair in search of the second set. I can see just about everything, and I know what they are doing, even if I'm not watching them directly. He wonders how I do this. I tell him it's magic. Never mind that it is more related to strategically placed reflective objects around the house and a very keen sense of hearing - as far as he is concerned, I have eyes in the back of my head.

The sense of hearing is a true superpower though. I can identify EVERY single sound in my house, which is no small feat considering the sheer number of things that make noise. I can tell instantly where it is coming from, what is being done with it, and I can almost always tell who is playing with it. I know when a box of legos gets dumped, when someone is riding the spring horse in the basement. I can tell immediately when one of the girls is giving a doll a bath in the sink or decides to use *real* food in the play kitchen. I don't remember having this ability before I had kids, but maybe it was just never put to good use on a daily basis.

The sense of smell also gets heightened when you become a mom. Starts in pregnancy. You know, when the smell of certain things can turn your stomach in an instant. I know when someone gets into the chapstick. I can tell when someone snuck a piece of candy. I know if someone is fibbing when they tell me they brushed their teeth. And I can tell the difference beteween a dirty diaper and gas in a split second. People always second guess me on that last one - and I'm always right, there really is a difference.

The sense of touch turns into a superpower too. No need to use thermometers, I know when someone has a fever and can tell within a half degree how high it is. My hands can rub in various lotions, creams, salves and medicines. My lips can fix most boo-boos instantly. My arms can calm a scared, sad, sick or tired child. My lap, almost always occupied, is comforting. It is home. As a mom, I have someone touching me virtually constantly. I am lucky to go to the bathroom without a tag-along or take a shower alone. While I may tire of the overuse of this sense, it is one of my most important.

One sense does suffer a bit during motherhood. The sense of taste. Most meals are eaten quickly, since we are usually in a hurry to get somewhere, or someone needs something. Lunch is often relegated to whatever leftovers the kids didn't eat. Half eaten sandwiches and bites of macaroni and cheese aren't exactly pleasing to the palate, but that is the food of motherhood. In the overall scheme of things, I'll sacrifice taste a bit for the vast increases in my abilities elsewhere.

I told you I have superpowers.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Motherhood Hurts

Motherhood hurts. That's one of the little things hidden in the fine print that no one tells you about when you decide to embark on the journey of parenthood. You know, that list of things that only experienced parents know about. The list that they never seem to share with their as-yet child free friends and family members.

You always here about the physical pain - most notably labor. Does labor hurt? Heck ya it does! I am well aware of the necessity involved with the pain of labor. It's there for a reason. Pain with a purpose, so to say. This is the one thing that people always focus on when it comes to kids - they all want to tell you their horrible labor stories, particularly when you are pregnant! What people don't tell you about are the other things that come with having kids. The sore breasts from the second you get pregnant. The indigestion. The sore back and hips. The shock of discovering your sciatic nerve for the first time. And, yes the hemorrhoids. And that's just before the baby is born! Afterwards, you get the sore nipples, the headaches from sleep deprivation. The arm and shoulder always a little sore from carrying around your little bundle of joy.

As kids get older, there are all kinds of dangers lurking ahead for mom. I had a friend actually break her leg because of her kid. He was reaching for hot coffee, and she jumped (or tried to jump) the baby gate. She managed to distract him and get him away from the coffee, but not quite in the way she planned. Don't even get me started on the exposure you will get almost daily to every kind of germ and bacteria imaginable. Kids are gross, and they make you sick.

The physical pain is one thing, but the emotional part of it is so much harder. If you aren't entirely prepared for the physical pain involved with motherhood, the emotional aspect of it will broadside you like an 18 wheel truck.

The first six weeks of their lives, babies mostly just want to eat, sleep and poop. There's not a whole lot of a connection there, at least not in a way that you can feel validated for. They make eye contact, sure, but as a mom you find yourself trying to get a response. A smile. Something. What you don't realize is that while for those 6 weeks you are wanting so desperately to feel that complete bond with the baby, you'll spend the rest of your life letting go a little more every day.

The reality is that every day that your child gets older, they need you a little bit less. And you don't even really realize it as it happens, since the process seems so gradual. And you certainly don't notice it as much with your second, third or fourth child as much as you do with the first. Some of the changes, you welcome. They find their thumb, and suddenly they don't need you to comfort them. They can sit up, and you don't always have to hold them on your lap. They can walk, and you no longer have to carry them. Eventually, this will turn into the first time that they wipe off your kiss, or turn away from a hug. No Mommy, I can go in to school by myself. I don't need you to come. I'm okay, really.

Being a mom is hard. Much, much harder than you ever think it will be. My kids are my life. My everything. But, as they get older the changes happen. They need me a little bit less every day. It's not something that I was prepared for. Nor is it something I enjoy. But it is something that needs to happen, and that I will continue to encourage. After all, my job is not to keep children, it is to raise them.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

4 a.m.

4 a.m. is the precise time of night when anything can go wrong. If someone is going to get sick, it will be at 4 a.m. If the baby is going to wake up and fuss for hours, it will be at 4 a.m. If someone has a nightmare, it will be at 4 a.m. Few good things happen at that time of night.

It's the time where parents draw straws. I am lucky that Tom almost always gets up in the middle of the night - mostly a by product of the fact that I can sleep like the dead. (Unless he is not home, of course, then I hardly close my eyes at all.) Just about anything that happens at that godforsaken hour can be handled by Dad. But not everything.

Last night I was tagged. Tom's not a big fan of cleaning up after the kids, no matter what is coming out of their bodies, particularly in the middle of the night. He can help them to the bathroom, tell them that there isn't a monster in their room, calm their fears, change diapers and bring them a drink of water - but cleaning up after them isn't in his job description. That's all me.

The downside to being woken up in the middle of the night with a sick kid is that it's almost impossible to go back to sleep afterwards. I can't help but worry. I listen intensely for any movement out of their room. I figure there isn't much point in trying to sleep anyway, since the baby will be up soon and daylight will come in a little while. I'll lay there for a while, staring at the ceiling. Try to catch a few winks before Ally gets up. Before the baby needs to eat again.

I'll sleep when they go to college.

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