Sunday, November 17, 2013
Like Brushing My Teeth While eating Oreos...
I was going to warn everyone to just look away if they saw our family on the news accompanied by a haz-mat crew and a clean-up team. I thought that when the girls' room was finally declared a federal disaster area, and the money from FEMA came in, there might be some local coverage. Apparently though, you cannot get federal cleanup funds for one of the bedrooms in a two bedroom apartment. Even a bedroom occupied by two little girls who refuse to recognize the need to pick anything up, except under threat of painful death. Since the rest of the place isn't quite in the disaster relief category, I guess I'll just have to continue to kvetch at the girls while I clean up without the benefit of federal assistance.
It would have been nice to use the funds for a new vacuum though. Maybe someone makes one that doesn't cough and splutter when it sucks up beads and bobby pins and the tiny rubber bands that the girls are using to make necklaces and bracelets on those "looms" that are all the rage right now. And don't get me started on the hairballs. If I didn't know that the girls had 100 percent human DNA, I would assume that they were somehow part Persian long-hairs or Bernese Mountain dogs, because the vacuum is always rolling up big balls of blond and auburn hair. With the way the girls blow their coats, I am constantly threatening pixie cuts.
I guess part of what gets me down is how quickly their room can go from clean, or at least clean-ish, to utterly messy. I say clean-ish, because I am not bleaching my cleaning rags or swiping all the surfaces with anti-bacterial cloths, (except in the bathrooms and the kitchen, where I am definitely anti-everything that's even remotely bacterial), so I don't consider myself a fanatic. And because we live in the desert, I have had to make my peace with the dust that re-settles instantly on every surface as soon as it is dusted, and the sand and tiny gravel that clings to all uncarpeted areas. Dishes in the sink will not drive me to distraction. No, for better or worse, I am only of the neat and tidy, clear surfaces, everything-in-it's-place school of clean, but I still can't seem to catch a break. I just finish in one room, returning it to what I feel is a normal, orderly state, when I turn around to see that the mess has reappeared, even larger, in the next room. And there seems to be an endless stream of clutter that emanates from the girls' very beings. It's not just in their room, it follows them in a swirling cloud, like that kid Pigpen from the old Charlie Brown cartoons, except with actual objects replacing the dirt. So there always seems to be stuff everywhere, even though I am picking up constantly. It's as if I live in one of those cartoons that say that cleaning up when kids are home "is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."
To preserve my own sanity, and the girls' lives, I've ruled that their stuff must stay in their room, and issued orders that they must put away one project before starting another. I know they do this at school, as I have helped with art class and seen both girls pick up infinitesimally tiny scraps of construction paper under the watchful eyes of their smiling teachers, just to have the privilege of starting their math assignments. I scream that there will be no dessert for the rest of the year if things aren't neat, and they barely wait until I close my mouth before they ask if they can go watch Dog with a Blog. When I finally do explode, (actually, I get very quiet, and start to drool just a little as I hiss at them through clenched teeth) they will slink into their room to pick up. A few minutes later, I'll hear some giggling mixed in with the usual bickering and settle down a bit, thinking they have finally gotten the idea. Nine times out of ten though, when I go in to check on them, I find that their room is even worse. Yes, they have finally pulled toys and markers and books, etc. out from under the bed and behind their desk. But only to play with!
I know that the girls are still pretty young, and I shouldn't quite expect that they will spontaneously decide to put their stuff away, no matter what I threaten or promise. I have to hope that the example of cleared surfaces and vacuumed floors will imprint on their psyches eventually, like it did on mine. And now, working as a team (they handle the complaining and reaching into tiny spaces, and I do the actual putting back and throwing away) we do get the room done. I've noticed that they seem to like it neat, and they even try to maintain it. For a minute or two.
Burglary cartoon found on this page. Pigpen, the copyrighted Charles Schulz character, found here. Cleaning e card found here.