Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My Very Low Standards

Many years ago, when I still cried over my infertility, I had a friend named Julie who had a three year old son. And a husband, too, for that matter. While I was taking my morning temperature and scheduling my intimate encounters around my fertile days, Julie was busy accidentally getting pregnant. Twice in a year. She'd call me, crying, overwhelmed, despairing over her messy house and her sink full of dishes and I'd say, "I'll be right over. I'll help you."

And I would. I'd drive to her house and find her disheveled and sniffly. Her couch would be covered with mostly unfolded laundry and her bed would be a tangle of sheets and her floor would be strewn with toys and clothes and shoes and stuff. Her sink would be piled so high I'd have to empty it before I could start rinsing and washing. I'd reassure her and tidy up and put all the clothes back into her closet and run a few loads of wash and fold the jumble of clothes on the couch. I created order out of that disorder.

Secretly, I thought she was sweet, but incompetent. What did she do all day? How long did it take for a house to fall into such disrepair? How could she let this happen? I did my good works with a great deal of smugness.

And then I had twin boys. That event alone set the stage for my current low standards. TwinBoyB used to spit up a lot. If I didn't reach him quickly enough, I'd hear a slurping sound and catch him sucking the half-curdled formula out of the Berber carpet. So is it any wonder that I didn't care if the pacifier was rinsed if it happened to drop to the ground? My kids licked the floor. How could a grimy pacifier matter?

When the twins were toddlers, I couldn't keep them from throwing sand at each other. They loved sand--I didn't have a box, though. I just had some guy with a pick-up dump a big mound of sand by the side of our driveway. We lived on ten acres then and this pile of sand blended right into the landscape. So, they'd sit in the center of this mountain of sand and throw it. At each other. Despite me.

One long Michigan winter left me desperate to entertain them. My friend, MaryKay, said she had a rice pool for her kids. I said, "How do you keep rice from getting all over the house?" She said she just vacuumed around the pool and didn't let her kids carry it around.

That sounded easy. So I tried it. I bought a big, rectanglar Rubbermaid container. I filled it with twenty-five pounds of rice. I supplied shovels and cups and implements for play. My boys flung that rice into the far corners of the rooms. Repeatedly. Some of you (mothers of girls, probably) canNOT imagine such a thing. I never thought I'd turn a blind eye, either, but I did. I figured, hey, it will keep them entertained and it will vacuum up. Maybe I can actually have a moment.

I think they are probably still finding errant grains of rice in odd spots in that house. They probably blame mice.

I used to let the boys sit on the kitchen floor with giant bowls of soapy water. They'd play with it and inevitably spill it all. I'd use a billion bathtowels to clean it up. That made up for my infrequent mopping.

Wouldn't it be reasonable to expect improvement? Learning, even gradual? Yeah, I thought so, too, but as it turns out, the mud-flinging and spillage persists. Instead of fighting them, I surrendered. I don't bother picking up all the stuff scattered on the floor. At least not right away. I have a laundry folding system on my couch, but sometimes it just looks like piles of unfolded clothes. I will leave dishes in the kitchen sink so I can stretch out and read a novel.

I learned in these past 11 years that the messes will always be here. Even if I clean up today, it will be a mess tomorrow. Why sweat it? At this moment, the following items sit on my desk, here in the family room: a naked Ragged Ann (circa 1960 or 1970), a bucket of chalk, pipe-cleaners from last weeks Pipe-Cleaner Extravaganza, Babygirl's sunglasses, my transcribing machine, my camera, assorted pens, CDs for school music, Land Before Time coloring book, car, bar of soap, old carrot, used tissue. And I could either spend time cleaning it up, or I could write. I choose to write. I need a break from the manual labor that is my life. I no longer have standards, I have substandards. As I told my husband the other night, I am a half-assed housewife. (Wait. Can a Pastor's Wife say that? Let me check my manual and get back to you.)

That explains why today, when Babygirl walked up to me with her underpants on her head, I wasn't alarmed--until I saw the skidmarks. Then, I said, "Hey, go get her some clean underpants, please! She needs clean underpants to wear on her head! Hurry!"

I have to draw the line somewhere. And wearing stinky flowered underpants upon one's blond curls is that line. I just didn't expect the line to be one of . . . well. You get the idea.

(And to Julie? I apologize. Now I realize that the household can fall apart in a matter of hours. I really had no idea.)


Blogger Ozfemme said...

I have to do the dishes. Later. My house is messy. I probably won't get around to tidying up until just before the cleaner comes....which is when I have to tidy it up. Can't have the cleaner knowing what a slob I am now...

3:08 AM  
Blogger Toni said...

Good morning! You got me laughing! I've done some of those things with my boys. I just can't imagine having twin boys.

Being a Mom is hard work!

7:26 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Darling said...

I was sent here by one of my readers to read this entry after a very hard day that I recorded in my own blog. I've spent some time reading here and now I know why she sent me. Thankyou for posting about the everyday mundane things of life. Sometimes it feels like everybody has it all together but me! ya know? And BTW, I too went through the infertility aalthough it was secondary infertility. We tried for seven years. I went through invitro and now have a son from a forzen embryo of mine! God loves to work miracles!

9:29 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Thank heaven for little girls ( a great song :) )

What a cute post. I love the end.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Angi said...

I can't even start to describe what my living room looks like right now.

I have 5 boys, I homeschool them, and it seems like my house is never as clean as it should be. But I did have to laugh at the skid marks. I have one son, who refuses to change his underwear until he has worn them a week...don't ask why.

10:00 AM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

The mental image of infant TwinBoyB sucking formula out of the carpet caused me to spew my coffee onto the keyboard.

Thanks for choosing to write instead of clean.


10:31 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

I am sure I am among MANY when I say thanks for ignoring the mess and choosing to write instead!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

My youngest son just moved out (again) this week. I feel as if I can FINALLY start to clean! Today, it was the bathrooms. If it wasn't mine or my husband's, it went into the trash. Two FULL trash bags went into the dumpster tonight.

I tried to get my dog all excited about having her own 'drawer' in the bathroom. It contains her brush, nail clipper and a collar. That's how much room I have now. Room for my dog to have her own drawer.

The rest of the house is still a mess. I'm thinking of taking a year off to recover from having children. But, I'm not sure that would be long enough...

LOVE the underwear on the head story!

7:59 PM  
Blogger barbara curtis said...

Mel, this is hilarious! With my teenagers sleeping in and my little kids up early, I was padding around like "What's it all about?" Now that I've gotten to laugh out loud, I've got a whole different outlook. Thanks for choosing to write.

6:02 AM  

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