Q: So How’s that Chore Schedule Working Out For Ya, Superstar?

A: Ugh.

Two weeks ago I wrote this post, about how I’m trying to be a better stay-at-homie by keeping my house at the lowest possible order of functional cleanliness. It’s sort of a deal I made with myself. If I can do a set of chores on a regular basis, maybe I won’t need to feel so guilty about working on my manuscript or writing inane blog posts. As an added bonus, maybe some modicum of respectability vis-a-vis the floors, furniture, and bathrooms could keep me from wanting to jab my eyes out every time I look around.

Those things are true. But they only work if I do my chores.

IF.

And things keep getting in my way.

1. Outside Appearances: We can go a long time without doing anything, and then WHAM. Every morning and afternoon has something going on. There’s the Parents & Tots class at the preschool, there’s Music Together class. Play dates. Necessary trips to the library so Z can get new books. (Okay, fine, because Mommy has a passel o’ new YA books waiting for her on the hold shelf. But let’s allow Z to think this is about her.) We’re going going going and it’s all I can do to catch my breath, much less open the closet to see if we still have a vacuum cleaner.

2. The Grandma: It would sound bad if I left it like that. So allow me to explain, please. When Grandma comes to visit, The Ever-Suffering Mother (moi) gets to hide in her bedroom with her laptop and write in the mornings. It is GLORIOUS. I get so much work done. But not chore-schedule kind of work. More like, manuscript revising, manuscript critiquing for other people, other business for writers groups, and those all-important Facebook status updates. And blog posts. The free babysitting is for the morning, when everyone is at her happiest. But the mornings are when I usually do my chore schedule chores. Do I become flexible and do my chores in the afternoon? No. I become slothful and lazy and don’t do my chores and I don’t look back. Much.

3. Ennui: Sometimes I don’t feel like it. Usually Wednesday-Whatever-Day gives me a chance to catch up if ennui hits on a different day. But sometimes it doesn’t help at all.

4. The Library: This was partially covered in “Outside Appearances” above. But “The Library” also includes those YA books I borrow. You see, I don’t just like to bring them back and forth between the library and my (messy) house. I also like to read them. This takes time. Sometimes it takes…chore time.

5. The Kid: She wants to play “cave,” which is my new favorite game where we sit on the couch under a blanket. Sometimes we pretend to sleep in the cave (and one of us is doing more pretending than the other). Usually we pretend to feed passing animals who visit our cave. Either way I’m a) on the couch and b) under a blanket and c) do you really think I’m going to get off my butt and fold laundry when I can be doing a) and b)?

So if you come over (and please only do this if you actually have met me in person and I have given you the okay), and my house is making you think “how do they live like pig people?” – just remember, it isn’t my fault. I have 1 through 5 above, all conspiring against me.

Oh, and 6. The Cat: This is a rare shot of her up and moving around. Usually she’s resting peacefully…on my lap…while I read one of those books I mentioned…and it would be too cruel to dislodge her from her favorite napping spot.

The Weekly Chore Schedule (Or, Trying to be Less of a Slacker Mom)

Welcome  to my home. Wait, wait, don’t step there. Ouch. Those Duplos really hurt. In fact, you might want to keep your gaze on the floor as you navigate our hazardous halls. If you stumble on a stuffed animal and grab the piano for support, you may want to wipe off the dust that sticks to your fingers. I’ll turn around and pretend not to notice if you want to use the curtains for this.

Yes, welcome to my home. I know I’m not completely alone in this. My house is cleaner than some, but much messier than others. It’s messier on days when we come back from the library and I have a delicious new book to read (Hello, The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams–wow!)

To give myself a tiny bit of help, I devised a chore schedule. This is the slacker mom’s chore schedule. Please realize that I’m easing into this chore thing, and I’M A SLOB OKAY!? There’s my disclaimer. Even as easy as this chore schedule is, I STILL don’t get everything done.

This is embarrassing. I can’t believe I’m posting this. Okay. Here goes:

Monday: sweep and vacuum

Tuesday: dust (This is a stupid chore. It always gets overlooked. Besides, whenever my mother visits she is so appalled by the layers of dust coating everything that she dusts. So I don’t have to.)

Wednesday: whatever (Yes, seriously. Wednesday is “Whatever Day.” Maybe we run errands. Maybe I read a novel.)

Thursday: laundry (Actually, I do laundry all week. Thursday is “fold the mountain of laundry in the family room” day.)

Friday: clean sinks and toilets

Saturday: clean tub and shower

Sunday: Whee, Sabbath! I try very hard not to do chores on Sundays. This is the chore day where I SHINE. Except for dishes (see below).

Every Damn Day: wash dishes (Oh, how I hate them.)

I am sure there are stay-at-homies out there who do all those things in one single day. The thought of this makes me break out in a rash. My mother has hope for me yet. Two of my Christmas gifts:

I really hate dusting. Yesterday was dusting day. Z and I got it done, but just barely. We didn’t use the Swiffer Dusters Extender, though. Maybe next week!

I hate the dishes too, but as they’re unavoidable, I’ll use the fancy dish drying mat. Thanks, Mom! (Um, that is said without any trace of sarcasm, really. And just so nobody thinks anything bad about my mother, I will also disclose that one of her gifts is sending me to an SCBWI conference. So she didn’t just get me housekeeping accoutrements.)

Scrub Free or Die!

I don’t know what moron installed our shower. This is a good thing, because if I knew who that person was, I would make that person scrub the shower.

I actually don’t mind cleaning the bathrooms. It isn’t a chore I embrace, naturally, but I’d rather scrub the shower once a week than wash the dishes every damn day. (Fine, I’ll confess. I don’t scrub the shower once a week. We’re lucky if I do it every other week. But it’s only because the dishes will not go away!)

But this shower? This shower is stupid.

Now, I normally would not have such crude graphics, but at least this beats photographs of the real thing (ewww). Plus, our computer crashed (every precious word I ever typed on it was backed up, so no worries other than the $300 bill for fixing it). I’m at this moment using an ancient lap top that doesn’t have an SD drive ?! and don’t have a scanner hooked up to it either. So bear with me.

The Stupid Shower Viewed From the Side

This little dip between the shower floor and the drain reminds me of a moat dividing a castle from surrounding lands. But because the water just sits there, we end up with lots of yuckiness:

Nasty soap scum in stupid shower

Like a moat, there could be dragons in it. (Wait, do moats have dragons? Or monsters? Or something else entirely?)

Monster living in shower moat

So periodically (not once a week, mind you) I have to go into the bathroom armed with a rag, scrub brush, and Scrub Free, which is the cleaner that came with the house, and smells sort of like a combination of car exhaust and moat-dwelling dragon farts.

And when I’m done scrubbing, the shower looks pretty much the same.

Also, our house seems to be collapsing around our heads, and we’re feeling very discouraged. I would catalog our recent misfortunes, but I’ve used up my hourly allotment of complaints. Until next time.

Oh, and I actually am kinda proud of my Paint graphics. They’re not up to  Hyperbole & a Half standards, but I like them so be gentle.

The Challenge of Turning 30

The clock is ticking and I’ve got six months left of my twenties. I want to do them right.

The thing is, I feel like a kid most of the time. There’re all kinds of things I don’t know how to do or even handle, and so like the bibliophile I am I turned to a book. I (rather smugly) gave this one to Husband when he turned 30:

30 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do Before Turning 30, by Siobhan Adcock.

Here they are (lifted from the back of the book) (with slight commentary as embellishment where necessary):

  1. wrap a present
  2. start a successful fire in a fireplace, at a campsite, and in a barbecue
  3. finish a piece of furniture
  4. get a raise (whahahaha!)
  5. order wine at a restaurant without getting stiffed
  6. parallel park in three breathtakingly beautiful movements
  7. dance a “slow dance” without looking like an idiot
  8. use a full place setting properly, including chopsticks and Asian soup spoons
  9. clean your place in under 45 minutes, when friends, relatives, or prospective lovers (hahahaha) are coming by unexpectedly, and soon
  10. hold your liquor
  11. cure a hangover
  12. do the Heimlich maneuver
  13. use a compass
  14. change a flat
  15. jump-start a car
  16. open a champagne bottle
  17. send a drink to someone’s table
  18. cook one “signature meal” (I’m shuddering in fear at this one)
  19. whistle with your fingers
  20. take good pictures
  21. fold a fitted sheet (those damn things are so annoying!)
  22. remove common stains
  23. sew a button
  24. carve turkey, lasagna, and birthday cake
  25. hold a baby (hahaha!)
  26. change a diaper (if only I didn’t know how to do this)
  27. keep a plant alive for more than a year
  28. make dogs and cats love you
  29. help someone out of a car
  30. write superior thank-you notes

The rules for my challenge are simple. I have until my thirtieth birthday. I’ll write here about my successes and failures. I’ll try not to burn down any cities (#1–whoops, Dana pointed out this should be #2, not #1), bite off my fingers (#19), or make everyone else’s pets move to my house (#28). As much as possible, I’ll stick to my regular blog posting schedule, but if I have Breaking News, things might get switched up a bit. Breaking News will not include items I feel I already have proficiency in (such as keep a plant alive for more than a year, hold a baby, change a diaper, and a couple of others).

Wanna join me? No age requirements. You can be 30, close to 30, or nowhere near 30 (on either side of the number).

In totally unrelated self-promotion, come by on Friday for an interview with Vintage Veronica author Erica S. Perl, and my first ever Giveaway Awesomeness.

Death in the Long Grass

This is a book by Peter H. Capstick, which, I confess, I’ve never read, although my father and younger brother both love it. No, in my mind it isn’t so much a title, but a spooky chant that echoes in my head every time I step into the back yard.

Death in the long grass, death in the long grass, death in the long grass…

Because the Ever-Suffering Mother does not have enough to do with ignoring all the housework, it is also her responsibility to ignore the yard. I would offer photographs depicting the effects of such negligence, but it is far too embarrassing.

While day-to-day yard maintenance such as lawn-mowing, leaf-raking, and porch-sweeping/de-cobwebbing suffers (and brings down property values within the immediate neighborhood), gardening is no problem at all. Give the Ever-Suffering Mother some seeds, soil, and a spade and within a few months she will give you vegetables. (Quite literally. The garbage truck driver got to take home a couple of tomatoes today.)

In fact, the success of the tomato plants in the back yard caused all manner of problems. They overstepped their boundaries. They piled over the tops of their cages like uneven, green, toppling wedding cakes. And then, then they began their pilgrimage across the lawn. I just let them drift. [Internal editor: that’s a point-of-view shift. You had been talking about yourself in third person. Me: Now I’m talking to you/myself in second person. Internal editor: throws hands in air, gives up. Me: Yeah, that’s right.]

Fast-forward a couple of months, and the tomato plants have overtaken that side of the yard.

Last week I finally hacked my way through the jungle. I wasn’t going to clip the plants completely back, as there were still a few lingering green tomatoes, but when I saw what the jungle had done to my grass (think swamp), and when I saw the fat brown slugs masticating their way through that swamp, I got a little carried away. The only reason the three plants are still in the ground is because the yard waste bin and the compost pile were overflowing.

Z was thrilled because she finally got to “break the rule” and pick all those green tomatoes.

Don’t worry, we’ve still got ten or so tomato plants in the side yard…inching their way across the long, long grass.

Out Damn Spot!

If I had any sort of ability with these pesky computer-type things, you’d be listening to the Jaws theme music right now. Or maybe the shrieking music from Psycho.

People are coming.

To my house.

I invited them, of course. If I hadn’t, there wouldn’t be a post today at all because I’d be busy barricading the doors and phoning the police instead of trimming the jungle outside and collecting piles of recycling and freecycling.

And since I invited these people, I should probably make something of an effort to make my house presentable. And if not that, at least I can attempt a look that isn’t offensive. As in, you know, clean a little. Or maybe you don’t know. I didn’t know. I didn’t know how dirty this place was until I started cleaning it. (With my mom’s help of course. Otherwise, why bother at all because there wouldn’t be enough time to make a dent – a dent! – in the mess.)

We’re pig people. Disgusting pig people, living in filth.

We’ve been in this house for one year and eight months (and three days…easy to keep track because we moved on New Year’s Day). In all that time, I have never wiped down the outside of the microwave door. Blech. But you know, it’s not a high priority when one is simultaneously trying to keep a little (demanding) person happy, write a novel, and maintain some facade of sanity.

I could gross you out with further examples of my housekeeping negligence. But I won’t. I could also write out my rationalizations/justifications/whining-creations of why I don’t go to the effort to keep my house pristine and shining and golden.

But people are coming over, so I have to get my booty back upstairs to clean (with my mom’s help) so I can pretend I’m a great housekeeper/mother/everything-together kind of girl to a bunch of friends and family who know me better than that anyway.

P.S. There’s a Yappy #3 next door. I hope it’s just visiting.

Max the Noble

Naming inanimate objects has always been a hobby of mine. My favorite egg baby in middle school was Hester. I had a dust mop named Jorge in college, and my dwarf mandarin orange tree is named Frida. Most, if not all, of my stuffed animals had names, and now I name Z’s animals. She has a giraffe named Gerald, a penguin named Mr. Penguin (yeah, really stretching the bounds of creativity on that one), and her Duplo person is Guy. Husband named her stuffed cat Talula, and I’m jealous that I didn’t come up with the name.

I also have a clothes hamper named Max. He was  in the garage, on top of the Yard Sale pile, and I’d forgotten about him until yesterday when my friend Kristin visited. “You have an elephant clothes hamper,” she pointed out in wonder. Or horror. One can’t be sure.

Max previously belonged to my Grandma Marion, and I don’t know where she got him, or why. But grandmothers have a way of foisting their strange belongings onto their granddaughters. I still have a garbage sack filled with throw pillows Grandma Myrt started to sew but didn’t want to finish. When I look at the fabric patterns of gigantic, blazing orange peonies and kittens wearing Christmas-patterned ribbons, I have to wonder why she abandoned that particular project.

But back to Max.

I grew so attached to him throughout middle and high school that he came to college with me, and then my first apartment, and to subsequent apartments, until Husband and I got married. Now we (gasp!) shared a clothes hamper, and Max simply wasn’t big enough to contain our filth–especially since said filth collected for between two to four weeks at a time until we made a trip to one of our parents’ houses to do laundry (yes, even when we were married. We have a deep-seated and irrational fear of laundromats). Max was sent back to live with my parents, and we adopted an accordion-style, silvery clothes hamper from IKEA that I have christened Ugly.

When we finally bought our house and our parents brought all of our junk from their garages to our own, Max resurfaced, took a quick breath of fresh air, and then the garage door closed on him for months. (Anybody thinking of The Velveteen Rabbit? ‘Cause I am.) During a purge of old things, Mom finally convinced me to put Max in the Yard Sale Pile: an epic mound of…garbage, basically. But garbage I hope someone will buy, so that I can, in turn, use their money to buy more garbage.

Then Kristin mentioned Max, and I remembered our fond times together. Personified as a faithful friend, he held my dirty clothes for so many years, and now I sell him like the other garbage? I asked Kristin if she needed a clothes hamper, concealing the fact that Max was missing an ear. No, she didn’t need a clothes hamper.

But you know who does?

My daughter.

Max the Noble

Welcome back to the fold, Max.