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If You Give a Housewife a Vacuum…

My grown stepdaughter and boyfriend fly into Austin tonight.

In preparation, Mister and I watched Meet the Parents.  We took notes of what not to do.

Mister’s not going to talk about snakes or milking cats.  I’m avoiding the word “pooh-poohs”, which is rather difficult considering I have two toddlers in the house.

I prepared for their arrival in other ways, as well.  I cleaned both high chairs, washed the bathrooms, made cookies, bought snacks, wrote a message on the fridge using Bunder’s alphabet letters, rewrote the message after Mister chastised me, made the beds, hid some toys, etc.  I reserved my final task for naptime today – SCRUB THE KITCHEN FLOOR.  I thought globs of dried yogurt might gross out our guests.

Right after I lay both kids down in their separate rooms for naps, I eagerly attack the kitchen telling myself, “Your cup of tea and quiet time will be a delightful reward for cleaning the kitchen floor”.  (I know that sounds a little pathetic, but I hope you other SAHM’s can relate).

Before I can wash the floor, I have to find it underneath the assorted crayons, colored pencils, stickers, toys, and dog bowls.  Therefore, I pick everything up and carry a few chairs into the living room.

Afterward, I drag out the vacuum and alternate vacuuming with the hard-floor nozzle on the main areas and the straight nozzle in the corners and edges.  When I make my way to the fridge, I notice the vent at the bottom is loaded with dust.  I attempt to vacuum the dust, but it doesn’t budge.  I kneel next to the vent, and try to remove it.  It seems stuck.  I lie on the floor looking for a release latch placing my face uncomfortably close to the dust and dirt.  Nothing.  I kneel again and give a few tugs.  “Mister will kill me if I break this vent,” I half-heartedly worry as I yank harder.

The vent pops off and I place it in the sink to wash later.  With the vent removed, I clearly see how inept I am at house cleaning.  I start to vacuum the dust, dirt, Cheerios, and M&M’s at the front of the fridge only to discover a boatload of kids’ magnets.  “Ah-ha!  I’ve found the missing magnets!”

The vacuum nozzle doesn’t fit under the fridge, so I can’t easily rescue the magnets.  I go searching the house for something thin enough to use under the fridge.  Ideally, I’m looking for a thin yardstick, but all I can find is a yardstick in the shape of a rectangular prism (I’m showing off my third grade geometry skills).

Instead, I grab a piece of plywood from the garage.  I wrestle it around the kitchen island and onto the floor.  Too big!  What’s thinner than plywood?

In desperation, I grab a flyswatter from under the kitchen sink.  Sweet success!  It’s working.  I sweep the flyswatter from the far left of the fridge to the far right pushing out countless magnets covered in dust.  The flyswatter isn’t quite long enough, so I grab the part used for swatting flies to extend the handle as far back as possible.  I gag a little to be touching fly guts, but remind myself that I’m already nose deep in under-fridge gunk.

I vacuum the dust from the magnets before placing them in the sink with the fridge vent.  Then, I vacuum the area surrounding the fridge where the dirty magnets previously lay.  I crouch on the floor once more to survey the situation.

Yuck!  Thick dirt mats the floor under the fridge.

I hear Kiki cry.  Naptime’s over.  The kitchen sink is full of magnets and one large vent.

I didn’t even start scrubbing the floor.

What's under the fridge?

Just Write. 

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Best Laid Plans of Mice and Moms

I remember teaching my third grade students to think like writers – to live like writers.  I encouraged them to see their lives through the eyes of a storyteller.  Oh, how I loved teaching writing.

I miss those students.  Some days I think teaching a class of twenty-two children belonging to other people is easier than managing a day with two children belonging to me.  I digress…

Just as I taught my students, a continual narration runs through my head regularly.  As I experience a long drive in the car with my kids, I imagine the parts I would tell you.  Certainly, I’d include this conversation:

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!  Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!”

“Bunder, I know you have lots to tell me, but Mommy really needs a nap.  Will you please be quiet while I sleep?  Watch your movie or color with your crayons.”

“Okay Mommy.  I’ll be quiet so you can sleep.”

“Thank you, Pumpkin.”

Ten seconds pass.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Are you asleep?  Mommy!  Are you asleep?”

*********************************************************************

Sometimes, I’m so caught up in watching the story unfold, narrating it in my mind that I forget to react.  I forget to parent.  I know!  I’m that lady- the one sitting back all calm and reflectively watching my children wreak havoc on innocent bystanders.  Such was the case earlier this week.

All day Sunday and most of Monday morning, I built anticipation with my children to visit the Butterfly House.  “Oh, I can’t wait to see the butterflies!  I can’t believe the blue Morphos are back!  I wonder if one will land on me again this year.”

Why do I do this?  I’m not certain.  Is it to extend the fifteen-minute trip into a grander excursion than it really is?  Is it to encourage cooperative and obedient behavior prior to the journey?  Or is it my own twisted masochistic tendency?  I think the latter.  Surely, after this many years as a stepparent and parent, I should know better.  All too often circumstances outside of my control ruin my schemes.   Ah, the best laid plans of mice and moms.

Truly, I blame myself for Monday’s calamity.  After all, I stoked the fire of excitement for Bunder and Kiki.  I built the Butterfly House up so high, not even Godzilla could climb it.

I thought these thoughts as I watched my offspring kick and pound on the doors of the Butterfly House Monday morning.  Over their shrieks and cries, I attempted to read the sign to them, “Closed on Mondays.”

They didn’t hear me.  I stepped back and observed.  Dreadful to admit, I wished for a video camera to record their tantrums.  No video camera existed, so I pressed record in my mind – narrating the story as I watched.

Seconds, (okay maybe minutes later), I snapped out of my trance as other parents tried to console my kin.  I tried not to laugh (okay, I did laugh, but I tried not to – shouldn’t that count for something).

For the benefit of the bystanders, I said all the things a parent should say in such a situation, “Oh, I know you’re upset.  I’m upset, too.  I feel frustrated that the Butterfly House isn’t open today.  See the doors are locked.  We can’t go inside.   Don’t worry.  We’ll come back tomorrow.  Blah, blah, blah.”

I said all this while I half carried, half-dragged Bunder and Kiki toward the car.  This was not an easy task with a 25-pound toddler, 35-pound toddler, and 10-pound diaper bag.  But of course, I deserved it.  I was the nitwit who set up this disaster.

At least, we made it through the doors on Tuesday.


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