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Posts Tagged ‘cleaning up’

There are pink blobs that look suspiciously like human flesh congealing in my copper sink.  I am both grossed out and fascinated.  Neither of the children appear to be missing chunks of flesh.  I suppose it could be from a friend (one of my daughter’s, definitely; son has none, he assures me, although whether to exact pity from me or to ward off that look in my eye he recognizes as ‘you need social time’ IDK), but no friends have been here for a few days so I’d think some mother would notice.  Certainly other mothers are more on top of things then me.

I poke at the “flesh.”  It dissolves under my prodding and leaves a smear of pink on my fingertip.  I taste it.

Oh, don’t judge; my kids are 15 and 11; even if it is flesh, I’m sure I’ve tasted/eaten worse, or at the very least, as bad. Don’t pretend none of you ever got sprayed in the face when you were talking by your infant son who joyfully urinated every single time you changed his diaper.  My own brother did that to me when I was six.

The suspicious pink tastes like strawberries.

“GIRLLLLLL!” I call for my daughter.

It’s July.  They’ve been out of school for 4 1/2 weeks.  Their names ceased to matter sometime after Week Three.

“Yes, Mommy?” she says in her suspiciously ‘I Am a Perfect Child’ voice.

“What were you doing with the strawberries?”

“Ohhhh….making smoothies,” she says in that same sticky sweet voice.  I would buy it completely if I weren’t her mother and also heard her mouthing off to me like a 37 year old waitress at a truck stop only fifteen minutes before. Not that I wonder for a second where she gets her mouth from.

“You said I should make my own lunch,” she said.  “You even got out the blender for me.  Remember?”

I do.  It was yesterday, and after I had various conversations with both of them in which I used various obscenities as nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives interchangeably, I hid in my room for much of the day and watched ‘Crossing Jordan’ reruns.  I used to love that show. Now, with fresh eyes as a mother of a teenager and a pre-teen, I realize how much my beloved Jordan, Nigel, Bug, Lily and Macy created their own drama and continually went back for more.

The show now makes me feel so much better about my own life.

At least, until I find alleged bits of flesh shining prettily against my copper sink.

But hey, GirlChild tried something new. That’s fabulous!  She can add smoothies to her budding kitchen skills.  She also does a darn good job cleaning up the kitchen, as a general rule.  I’m sure the smoothie/flesh was just overlooked.

The BoyChild, however, is another issue.

“Teenager!” I screech own the stairs.

In the second of my double copper sinks is a pile of rice.  Not, by the way, in the sink with the disposal.

“I’m sorrrryyyyyy,” Teenager says after climbing the stairs from his lair like Rip Van Wrinkle after being awoken.  He happily does any and every chore I give him, but otherwise he doesn’t leave his lair very much.  It’s difficult being 15, for some more than others.  I was 15 once.  It wasn’t easy. Still.

“I forgggottttt, OK?” Teenager says.  “I can’t be expected to remember these things!  How am I supposed to tell the difference?  They’re both sinks.  They both look the same.”

We’ve gone over this.  And over this and over this and over this.  I don’t know how many more &*$@*%( times I can explain to my 15 year old, who is not an idiot, the difference between right and left.  He was doing OK for awhile.  Then he forgot again, I guess.  He did ask me to put a sign above the sinks, like I placed on the piano so my daughter could find Middle C.  I protested: he knows major specific details and statistics about every single  &*$@*%( war ever fought on this planet.  He is teaching himself &*$@*%( Japanese and French.  He remembers quotes from movies we haven’t seen in five &*$@*%( years.  And he can’t tell the &*$@*%( difference between the &*$@*%( sink with the &*$@*%( disposal and the &*$@*%( sink with just the &*$@*%( drain?

Apparently &*$@*%( not.

&*$@*%(

Off the wagon again.

I breathe.  I smile.  We go over it again.  He cleans the rice out of the sink for me and plops it in the disposal side.  He promises to remember.  I smile some more and pat him on the back.

I’m totally making a &*$@*%( sign.

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Today, I discovered that my Chapter Thirteen was actually Chapter Nineteen. Aside from the literal number issue, this is a big difference in terms of story arc. For me, it’s a wonderful big difference: I’m in the process of editing what I consider the “middle” of the book, where a few key pieces of information come to light and also a couple of key plot points evolve. And I was trying not to be horrified and shocked and anxious because the “middle” was not happening in the middle.

Then I discovered my counting error, and the heavens opened and the angels sang.

Briefly, because then I realized that the END was coming up…soon! And I could no longer delay it by playing around with my overall “big picture” arc on the excuse that my middle wasn’t in the middle.

I want to put this book to bed more than anything, and yet I am terrified of what comes after even more than anything.

What in the hell will I do when this book is done?

Don’t tell me to relax. I’m not good at that.

Sure, I have two more book ideas hanging out in my head: one I’ve already written half of, and the other I have an outline for. But I’m not going to be able to go to either of them right away. I’m going to mourn, for a bit of time. This book and the characters in it have been part of my every waking thought–and often dreaming thought, too–for several years now. I’m tired of them, and I want to be done with them, but I will miss them, too.

They’re like my best friends, if me and my best friends went vacationing in a teeny tiny cabin far out in the middle of nowhere and got snowed in for several years.

It’s not even about the time it will take to hear from any agents I’ve submitted to. After years of submitting short stories and poetry and not hearing from editors for up to a year, waiting doesn’t bother me. I just tuck all of that away and pretend it’s not happening, kind of like how I don’t see the dirt on the living room rug when I don’t want to. But thinking about the days when my imaginary best-ies are gone from my daily rituals is both a relief and yawning wide open with quiet desperation.

A good friend of mine, who is the president of the PTSA at our kids’ school, assured me she could find stuff for me to do, if necessary.

I’m glad I have something to fall back on.

For now, I’m off to continue muddling through the middle while not thinking about what comes after.

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My daughter’s room is a probably a fire hazard, but I will take it over the contentious relationship we use to have when it wasn’t always like that.

After fighting some serious, awful battles over the tidiness of her room with her over the last several years (she’s packed to “run away” on two occasions and asked for a new mother on more occasions then I can count), I realized a few months ago–belatedly, I fully admit–that the whole room “tidiness” issue is in the eye of the beholder. Life around here has been simpler, calmer and so much quieter since I stopped battling her. As an added bonus, our relationship has drastically improved. Some of it I can attribute to her own maturity in general, but most of I know, deep down, is because I’ve stepped away from what she so passionately cherishes as “her” space.

I’m no Martha Stewart when it comes to housecleaning myself, and our house is generally what I like to describe as “comfortably cluttered.” We used to clean up every night before bed, but when my daughter in particular began constructing elaborate playsets, whether it be with blocks or legos or stuffed animals, we would let her keep them up for a few days. But then she began “collecting” things–anything from the homemade confetti she used to make once she discovered scissors and the usual kid stuff like rocks, shells, and party favors to the more eclectic: shampoo bottles, pieces of string she found, deflated balloons that she loved, seeds from apples she particularly enjoyed, a bucket of sand from the time we went to Ocean Shores on Mother’s Day, a tupperware container of grass where she had kept a “family” of worms one summer, beads from a broken necklace, old baby clothes she “remembered” wearing and didn’t want me to pass on….the list goes on and on.

I have never begrudged her the “collections.” I am, after all, the mom who has a cut-glass bowl full of rocks as the centerpiece on our side table or a stack of notebooks–never used and therefore pristine in their beauty and possibilities–on the small counter in the kitchen. My empty vases hold seashells and seaglass, and the shelf that runs the length and width of the living room holds my “collection:” my grandmother’s figurines, a a ceramic statue from a friend who went to New Mexico, replicas of Dutch shoes from my brother when he went to Holland, photos of people I have known and loved, places I have been, a metal rooster from Key West, unicorns and miniature beer steins from long gone friends who travelled places I have yet to go. As a kid, I had a long dresser with six long drawers, three on each side, and six small drawers all along the top. Most kids, I found out somewhere along the way, used those small drawers to separte socks from underwear, tights from tshirts. I threw all that stuff together, so that I could I use those drawers for my treasures.

I never liked cleaning up my room, either.

When I was around ten, my sister moved into my room while our dad renovated the upstairs to add on my brother’s room. She was–and is–Martha Stewart. To my mind, obsessively so. She was constantly picking up my clothes, my books, demanding that I clear off my bed, asking me how I could sleep, get dressed, simply live, in such disarray. At one point, we had to draw a line down the center of the room. I wasn’t allowed to throw my clothes or stacks of stuff on her side; she wasn’t allowed to straighten up my side.

To this day I remain perplexed at the entire situation: surely I wasn’t that bad, was I? I just didn’t like putting things away. One never knows when something is needed again–and that goes for a pair of socks to that scrap of paper with half a poem written on it.

I’ve been thinking of this a lot, lately, whenever I am forced to peek in my daughter’s room. Surely, I wasn’t this bad, was I? When I ask my mother what she used to do with me, she laughs and tells me she just turned a blind eye. “It was your room,” she said. “The only place, really, in the whole house where you had complete control.”

I’m still not my sister, but living in small spaces in college taught me the value of “a place for everything and everything in its place.” To a certain extent.

I wish I hadn’t learned this at all.

Despite my happy memories of my own mess, my daughter’s room drives me beyond sanity. Two days ago, I couldn’t even get through the door because she had placed an upside down rattan footstool crammed full of her stuffed animals (they were on a boat) right inside the door and then closed it.

She leaves her clothes in heaps at the end of the day instead of putting them in the easily accessible laundry basket in her closet. She takes stacks of books down to read and doesn’t put them away. Last week, she created a “sun” design on the floor with her collection of Disney books. In the middle, she set up some dollhouse furniture and her favorite dolls. She began to have a panic attack when I suggested we pick up her “design.” She collects boxes from various places and turns them into houses or spaceships or boats or trains for her dolls or herself. Today I found a ziploc bag of clear liquid far back in the shelf where one of her drawers was supposed to go. The drawer itself, of course, was on the floor.

“What’s this?” I asked her. “That’s my experiment,” she said.
“What is it?”
“It’s water,” she said. “Remember I told you I was keeping it to see what would happen?”

I had a dim memory of her talking about wanting to see what would happen to water if she kept it around for awhile. I wasn’t aware that conversation was a request or even a statement of intent.

“Ah,” I said. “So, why does it have to be here? Isn’t the drawer supposed to be here?”
“But the cats might pop the bag,” she said. “So it can’t go on the floor. The drawer can, though.”

Of course.

She’s been looking for her DS–and mine–since we returned from San Diego over Spring Break. Today, I suggested we just “tidy” up her room, and maybe we’d find them.

“But I cleared a path last night,” she reminded me. “I know,” I said. She had, in fact, shoved everything to the edges of the room in jumbled piles. “But let’s tidy up a bit more.” There were six boxes of various sizes in her room, along with a two foot tall stack of books and mounds of clothing. In the “path,” she’d set up her Polly Pockets and had been in there for several hours playing that afternoon.

When she is almost-41, and her daughter’s bedroom makes her cringe, will she remember her own “mess?”

In the process of “tidying” up, she found 1)her slinky, 2)several of her horses she’d been looking for, 3)her Laura doll and Laura’s furniture which had gone missing awhile back, 4)her Indiana Jones hat, which was “camoflauged” by the floor, 5)several books she’d been looking for, 6)her “tornado” bottle she made in science class, which is made out of two 2-liter bottles held together at the openings and, makes a tornado when the liquid in one is poured into the other, 7) her stuffed dolphin “Dolfinny,” and 8)both DSes. One DS was in her “oven,” which we’d made out of a cardboard box last fall. The other was in her drawer with her music and storybook CDs. “Well, it is electronic,” she said by way of explanation. “And the box oven?” I asked. “I guess I thought it was a good place to put it,” she said.

Having hid notebooks under my mattress, special pens in my pillowcase and money in my encyclopedias as a kid, I don’t have much room to argue.

When she got into the bath, I threw out four box “creations:” all of which were falling apart, one of which I didn’t recognize as helping her with, and none of which I had understood what they were supposed to be in the first place. I also threw out a pile of Easter grass she’d told me she’d already thrown out, but had apparently decided to keep under her bed instead.

Her room is neat and tidy and even accessible now. I don’t expect it to last more then a few days. But I will bite my tongue and take deep breaths, be thankful her neat-and-tidy brother doesn’t have to share a room with her, pray she will find a bit of organization in her future, and finally, do what my mother did with my room: close the door.

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