Tag Archives: cleaning

My Fault…

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I thought I could go back to bed and lie there for a bit without incident. So, technically, I suppose it was my fault. But I heard everyone helping each other get breakfast. It sounded peaceable.

So, forty glorious minutes later I walk out. The weather’s perfect. It’s sunny. Even the introvert in me is charmed.

“Let’s go to the park,” I say, “Shoes on.”

At this moment in the hallway the little guy passes me holding a spoonful of milky cereal in front of his belly and marching into his bedroom. Curious, I follow him. Then I watch as he stops, calculates, throws said cereal onto the carpet, touches one foot on top of it delicately as if to evaluate his success and turns, I’m assuming, in order to get more.

Well, I stop that nonsense and on the way to the kitchen with the spoon I notice several other arrangements of cereal on the floor and realize this is an installation piece, probably entitled “Scourge of My Mother”. There is also one very wet towel lying in a square on the floor.

“Hey guys? What’s with the wet towel? Did he have an accident?”

“No, Mom, he spilled a cup of milk,” said the eldest.

“He did it on purpose. And it was my milk,” said the girl.

Mixed media.

(There are many moments like this when I’m glad I don’t have a nice place. I can’t stand how my kids treat my two-bedroom rental. What on earth would I do if they treated my dream-house this way?!)

I proceed into the kitchen. And the baby has tried to make a smoothie.

Here is a picture of that baby:

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I sigh and scrap my plans for the park. I place the baby in the tub (the only place he will remain contained) and wipe counters, do dishes, unload dishwasher so I can load dishes, start laundry from last night’s pee debacle(another long story), scrub and baking soda a square of carpet, sweep the kitchen, vacuum and four hours later it’s nap time and I’m sucking down coffee and eating some Go Diego Go cereal. For some subliminal reason I wanted some.

The first baby, that’s not anyone’s fault. You’re naive; you’ve never had a baby. You don’t know. The second one, well, that’s not technically your fault either. You and your husband have seven siblings between you. Let’s blame family culture. But three, well- the third one’s on you. You asked for three. This is on you.

Dirty Rags…

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So, laundry is a thing that takes up more of my mental energy since moving to the city.

The washer downstairs is ridiculously old and holds half of a normal load. And the dryer can’t dry a load completely. But it’s the most convenient.

Then, last week, it broke again. For the whole week, the washer sat filled with greasy grey water. The sight of that water every day for a week made me vow off the convenience of the washer downstairs.

So, today I bundled all of the laundry I could fit into my two laundry body bags and had my husband drop me off at the laundromat.

Now, I probably don’t do as much as I could for the environment, but one thing I do is to use cloths for everything. We have cloth napkins, kitchen cloths, and lots and lots of rags. I don’t buy paper towels or paper napkins.

All this to say, my laundry can be pretty gross. The dirty cleaning rags sit in a bucket under the sink. And my kids know where the clean ones are in the bathroom so they often trundle through after, say, they miss the potty, or spill some milk, and toss them in the bucket.

By the time the bucket gets filled it usually smells and has a few weeks worth of bathroom rags in there.

My kitchen rags can be worse because they’re usually wetter. They sit in a separate receptacle with the dirty napkins and can be demoted to cleaning rags at any time. I run a very strict caste system. My kitchen rags live in fear.

The kids laundry, also, is nothing to sniff too closely. I witnessed enough poop smears on the underwear today to initiate a little family meeting to discuss wiping strategies. And I know I have mentioned before that if I manage to get to the bottom of the kids’ hamper I usually discover a gross something at the bottom. Today it was an entire outfit that had hot chocolate spilled all over it.

So, I felt rather disgusting and rather disgusted after loading all of it into the washers. And I sat and waited to put it all in the dryers.

The front loading washers at the laundromat are a joy to watch. They do such a better job than the washer in our building. It’s so comforting to watch the sudsing and the rigorous tumbling.

To be sure, getting clothes clean has always been a rather violent task, the pounding on the rocks, the crushing them through the wringer. And this is a violence I approve of.

Shouldn’t I approve, therefore, of such violent methods in my own life, the tumble and toss of getting clean. And all our sins are as dirty rags, certainly an analogy that the women would have understood. Lord knows I need to be slapped against the rock to remember who I am.

Lord save me from the apathy of the ancient top-loader in my garage!

There is joy in coming clean.

I take the clothes out of the dryer and they smell so fresh and feel so light. And with pleasant surprise I realize they don’t fit as well in my bags. They take up more space. They are more.

As it sometimes happens, you don’t see how dirty things were, how weighed down. It’s like after confession when you are light and clean again and realize, “Oh, I was heavy with it!”

On Being Clean…

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First thing this morning I vacuumed the apartment.

That sentence paints a picture, doesn’t it? I mean, what sort of person am I to begin my day vacuuming?

But the truth is, the vacuuming had been rolled over from the day before and the day before that. This morning at eight am just happened to be the moment that I could do it.

Is that still too nice of a picture? Let me paint further. This morning, directly after my son left for school, I realized with a start that there were few enough toys on the floor that I could possibly pick them up faster than two kids could take them out and if I hurried I could get it vacuumed before the day began and then I wouldn’t have to watch my eighteen month old eat particles of day old popcorn out of the shag anymore. So, I cleaned up, yelling every time they tried to get out a toy and after finding my baby french kissing the vacuum cleaner for the second time put him in his crib for the duration.

There, the vacuuming was done!

And what is the first thing my daughter wants to get out? The large bin of small paper pieces belonging to craft time.

“No!” I said. Too harsh? Maybe. I’m pretty reasonable about messes. I don’t try to keep it immaculate. Goodness, I make my kids popcorn for a snack! But, you know, give me a moment before it all goes to pot again!

And now, my jeans, I washed them yesterday. It is delightful having clean jeans. It was delightful putting them on, feeling their snugness, and catching that whiff of fabric softener.

And as soon as we get to the bus stop my daughter asks if she can climb my legs. “No!” I said. It’s not like I thought I’d be able to keep them clean forever, just, well, I’d been wearing clean jeans for less than an hour, you know?

And then the baby wanted to stand in my lap and then, wouldn’t you know it, I splash coffee on them, just a bit, you can’t really tell, but then tonight was multicultural night at school and I fed an eighteen month old fried rice, soba noodle salad, and lasagna in my lap.

It wasn’t pretty people. In the now-immortal words of Queen Elsa I had to “let it go”.

All of this has me thinking. Because in moms group we’ve been talking about ritual and the meaning behind the things we do as a family. And during a collective bout of whining the other night right around bath time I cupped my four-year-old daughter’s chin and looked her in the eye.

“Do you know why we give you baths?” I said, “Because God gave you to us to take care of and because I want you to know how good it feels to be made clean.”

So, tonight I scrubbed the soba noodles out of my denim. And I picked a few cheerios up off the floor.

And I wondered if this is the ritual my heavenly Father gave me to do, this endless cleaning? Like a dirty faced child throwing a tantrum against the inevitable scrub, do I misunderstand the favor? “See how good it feels to make things new, Barbara? Do it again! Feel my joy at making dirty things clean!”

Today I realized all over again that there will never be a moment in my life when, by the energy of my own industry, I will be able to make everything clean all at the same time. Thank goodness! I rather think I need the practice of dependence in this area.

Hmm, I think I might have just given you a spiritual basis for maid service.

You’re welcome.