How I Know My Family Is Out To Get Me: Kitchen Edition

Recently I was informed that my family insisting on three solid meals a day AND snacks is not actually proof they are out to get me. Fair enough. Surely this list will convince you.

  • Wet, bloated macaroni noodles hiding under a plate in the sink. If you didn’t want to touch it when it first fell out what makes you think I want to pick it up the next day? It looks and feels unnatural.
  • Lettuce. Lettuce is my nemesis. That my family continues to consort with my sworn enemy is proof that they are not on my side. It falls on the floor and apparently becomes invisible. It sneaks into the dishwasher and adheres to plates so thoroughly I have to scrape it off with my thumbnail. Ick.
  • Wet meat. I want to hurl just typing that. That little pile of goop caught in the sink drain catcher is bad enough with a bloated noodle, but wet meat? Gag. You don’t do that to someone you love.
  • Standing water. It stands to reason if wet meat and a bloated noodle turn my stomach then reaching into water someone else left sitting with any possible combination of disgusting mystery ingredients is not going to please me.
  • Dirty sponges. This is just evil. Sponges are gross. No really, sponges are gross.

A sponge that’s been in use for no more than two or three days in a kitchen will harbor millions of bacteria,” said Elizabeth Scott, co-director of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in the Home at Simmons College in Boston. That’s a problem, she said, ”if you pick up the pathogen or a pathogenic E. coli, salmonella or campylobacter on the sponge.”

She added: ”That means that any time you use the sponge to wipe up a surface you are potentially spreading those pathogens.”

  • Dishes Jenga. When I walk into the kitchen and the dishes are piled haphazardly in the sink, likely to fall at any moment, I just walk back out again and hope it was a bad dream.
  • The set of measuring spoons tethered together by a ring. I find it suspicious that this is the only dish ever thoroughly rinsed, therefore I have to wash each spoon because I have no idea which one was used.
  • The glob of jelly on the counter. The paper towel is right there.
  • The last smudge of something leftover from last week. I open the fridge, delighted to realize there are leftovers I can serve instead of cooking again, only to discover not only is there not even half a serving left, but now I have another dish to rinse and clean.

That’s how I know. 

Advertisements

Never Work A Day In Your Life

When Goldy and Beauty were just bitsy little girls, bursting with imagination and melodrama, I was lucky enough to stay home with them and witness all the fun. I loved it then and I love it now. There isn’t anything else I’d rather do. Of course, I had kids before I had any sort of career, so I don’t have a lot to compare it to. I’ve had jobs, sometimes two at a time, but the only career I’ve ever had was teaching preschool. I think it is safe to say I’m doing what I am meant to be doing.

The unfortunate thing about loving your job is that it leads to the misunderstanding that you must not be working, especially by those that are less than happy with their own careers. I was blissfully ignorant to this fact when the girls were little. My (ex)husband would come home on lunch break from his office supply delivery job if he was in the neighborhood and ask how the morning was. “Great, we played outside.” What are you doing now? “Folding laundry, watching One Life To Live. We’re probably going to use sidewalk chalk in the afternoon.”  Then he’d come home and the house would still be torn up from Beauty and her own personal civil unrest.  She was a one baby crusade against order. Dinner might be cooking but it wasn’t anything fancy. Not only was I exhausted but we were not wealthy. I was a stay at home mom, he delivered paper. Do the math. Sometimes dinner wasn’t cooking. Sometimes my ass was planted on the couch watching Friends. In fact, just assume that was every Thursday for the run of the show. (I always fed the kids, I’m not against  macaroni for dinner every so often.)

This inevitably lead to discussions about my responsibilities and priorities. The house should be clean. Dinner should be made and edible. I should probably get dressed. Some people are so particular. I made myself a sandwich and he knew his way to the kitchen. And seriously, pants are overrated.

All the stay at home moms are nodding right now and all the working parents are raising their eyebrows. Am I right?

It took me a long time to understand the real source of our issue. My friend once told him if he wanted a housewife he probably shouldn’t have married someone who lists “sparkly” as her favorite color, but that was not the real problem. If you want to get specific, the real problem was respect, but we won’t go there today. Today we’ll explore the misunderstanding of the work that is done as a stay at home parent. He thought I was playing outside, watching my stories and doing crafts, so he couldn’t comprehend why there was no time or energy to clean. And the sad truth is, I didn’t understand, either, not when the girls were young. I did clean, but I always felt like it should be easier, like taking care of the house should be a snap for a stay at home mom, so between my own ideas and his words, I felt like a failure.

Today, sitting in the sunshine, enjoying my children and my job, I remembered that feeling all too clearly and see the error of my ways. If you asked me about my day I would tell you we played outside all morning, we ate a delicious lunch and then while the kids napped I took some time for myself to write a blog. Later we will do some crafts. Then I will make dinner, watch TV and go to bed. If you have never done my job this probably sounds like a cakewalk to you. You probably wonder why making dinner is such an ordeal if all I did was play outside and color all day. You worked all day, right? I get why you are tired. Your job is called work. It probably sounds dreadful to me. Unless you are an event coordinator or a road manager for a cool band or something. I can completely understand why you are exhausted and would rather order pizza.

The problem is in the communication, a problem I never expected I would have. When someone asks me about my day I rarely think to say, “Little S  took off his diaper and pooped all over his bed during the morning nap he had to take because he was biting me and literally crying over spilled milk. While I was downstairs cleaning it up he and his friend took everything out of the “no no drawer” and spread it all over the living room.” When I talk about our lovely time outside in the sunshine I don’t bother to mention the main reason my presence is required is to keep four kids hellbent on breaking at least one bone from accomplishing their goal. Not one grain of sand gets eaten on my watch. Okay, that’s a lie, but not much.

I rarely mention how hard it is to cook lunch while keeping those same hellbent bone breakers from jumping off the table and wrestling. The two smallest boys are all teeth and nails, lately. They’re just playing but it’s still dangerous and has to be dealt with, not ignored. On a good day Little S just shakes the gate and cries until I put him in his chair. I don’t talk about cleaning squash out of the carpet or scraping dishes while kids tumble around the toys we seriously just cleaned up. I don’t explain the level of patience it takes to do crafts with toddlers or the amount of cleaning to be done afterwards while those toddlers are once again attempting to maim themselves.

http://mommyofamonster.com/2010/08/baby-jail.html

Baby Jail from “Mommy Of A Monster”

All my Ex  ever saw of my job was naptime. Sometimes I would fold laundry or load the dishwasher but the rest of our messes from the day had to be cleaned as we went or it would be total chaos. More often than not I was watching TV or reading, a well deserved break. On the weekend I still handled most of the parenting but it is simpler with a partner and we didn’t usually complicate it with crafts and activities. Of course he did occasionally stay home alone with the kids, as well, but he never attempted to make a job of it. He didn’t do crafts or, if we’re being honest, bother to clean up after lunch.

“If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.” I have seen that attributed to Confucius but I’m giving my Ex all the credit for it.  I loved what I did so he assumed I never worked a day in my life. I’m not claiming I worked harder than him or trying to say, “poor me, being a stay at home mom is hard.” I’m simply explaining, I work, too.  Just because I like what I do doesn’t mean it doesn’t take energy and patience and skills beyond those of a trained monkey. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone should do it. If you think it’s easy or that I’m sitting on my ass all day this is not the job for you. It’s still a job.

The kids are stirring. I have crafts to do.

It’s Not A Secret

Yesterday I had to unload the dishwasher myself. That is a terrible start to any story so let’s add a drink, we’ll pretend it was a margarita since it was Cinco De Mayo, but it was actually a grape flavored Bacardi pre-mixed can of heartburn. Anyway, I was unloading the dishwasher, which is not my chore, and I noticed I was doing all the things I usually complain about. I put all the sippy cup lids in a basket with the annoying stopper things unattached and mixed the toddler utensils in with the regular utensils and ignored other small details I should have been fixing as I unloaded.

If this is the only blog of mine you ever read you will leave this page thinking I am a control freak nitpicker. This is not the case. In reality I am so laid back about cleaning you could call it reclined. I do want my house to be tidy and sanitary but I’m not trying to impress anyone or get our picture in Better Homes and Gardens. I just don’t want to end up on an episode of Hoarders, either. I live in a small house with 6 people and 3 cats. Some order needs to be maintained to keep your sanity.

So, back to the dishes, I noticed I was being sloppy and blaming everyone else. I shouldn’t have been unloading the dishwasher, that is my 13 year old daughter’s job. Everyone hates loading the dshwasher. It is the least desired chore in the house. My daughters would rather change the cat litter and clean the bath tub than load dishes. I could make them anyway. I make them do a lot of things they don’t like, claiming it is to prepare them for the real world, when usually it’s just because I don’t like it, either. I don’t make them load the dishwasher, though, because someday they will have families of their own and because they have female anatomy, they, too, will most likely have to do everything they hate, like touching other people’s wet food scraps because no one bothers to scrape and rinse their plate. They have years of muttering under the breath in their future, why make them start now.

The situation reminded me of a popular self help movement from a few years back that I did not take part in because if I spend money on self help it’s going to be a gym membership or a massage. I did mean to check the book out from the library after the hype died down simply because I like knowing what all the hype is about. I forgot. I did hear bits and pieces from the innerwebs and television and to my understanding the basic idea is that positive thinking will make you happy (duh) and if you surround yourself with successful people, you will become successful. Now, that might sound hokey, but in a past life I worked outside the home and I remember clearly the transition between workspaces at one job. I had become complacent and comfortable just getting by. I was the best at what I did in one arena, not because I was truly the best, but because everyone else was lazy. I moved to another arena with more motivated co-workers and discovered I was the lazy one. I had to buckle down and work harder to keep up and it made me better at my job.

If I apply that same thinking to my home full of infants, toddlers, teenagers and a man that is rarely home… I am in trouble. If I am setting the standard for this household I seriously need to buckle down. It’s easy to put a dish away with lettuce stuck to it and let the next hungry person re-wash it by hand because I know that is exactly what everyone else in the house would do. Don’t judge me. Lettuce is my nemesis. It’s easy to just shove the garbage down a little deeper and keep piling more in because I am still doing more than  everyone else. They just throw their garbage on the top of the obviously full can without bothering to notice if it stayed in or rolled off so by the time I go to take it out at night it resembles the trash heap from Fraggle Rock. If I didn’t have to take it out every night it may even start talking to us.

I make a lot of excuses, my favorite being that there are 6 people in this house. SIX! One of them can’t even walk but trust me, the boy makes a mess. I may be able to fool a lot of people with that excuse, but not myself. I grew up in a house with 6 people and I don’t remember ever ever ever thinking the floor felt crunchy. We never ran out of toothpaste or Tylenol or anything important. My mom stayed at home until I was in school and then she worked outside the home and somehow we never ran out of toilet paper. I remember her reading a lot but the house was always clean. My house is a mess and I still can’t find time to read without staying up until midnight.

According to this self help movemenet, as I understand it, I clearly need to move back in with my mother. (They live a few blocks away and I’m pretty sure I just heard the sound of the drill as she boarded up the doors and windows.) Or maybe I just need to suck it up and start setting a higher standard for my household instead of bitching that it’s not my job to unload the dishwasher. That really is what it boils down to. It’s not a secret, it’s actually quite simple. You have to do your personal best regardless of what the people around you are doing. You can surround yourself with successful people or you can choose to set the standard.

That being said, we are out of toilet paper. Time to set the standard.

Macaroni For Dinner

I always say I don’t like to cook but that’s a lie. I enjoy cooking and I absoluely love it when I create something that my kids like eating. It’s cooking dinner on time either before or after a 45 minute commute with two young children hanging on the baby gate sobbing for food and attention and two teenagers needing papers signed and tape for a project and permission to log on to Facebook that makes me want to order Dominos every single day. And night. And do they have breakfast pizza?

Worse than cooking in a house full of kids, though, is cleaning up the mess made from cooking. So many dishes. Pots and pans and spatulas and serving spoons and plates and seriously, can’t you just eat with your fingers? We’re out of forks. At the end of the day you could eat off of my floor, not because it’s so clean but because there is enough food down there to create a meal. Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up… eventually.

So, it’s easier just to say I don’t like cooking. It’s even easier to heat up some chicken nuggets, steam a bag of broccoli and cut up a banana and call it done. It takes less than 10 minutes to make and less than 10 minutes to clean up if you don’t count banana goo removal from the baby’s hair.

I’m at peace with this. When The Barkeep is home he really does enjoy cooking and I’m here to entertain the kids and field any questions about where to find paper or watching Mighty Machines. They’re getting a variety of different foods and I always cover all the food groups. Sure, better meals are being served somewhere but next door to them a parent is serving McDonald’s. I don’t consider myself above the McDonald’s mom, though, she probably has immaculate floors.

Some time after dinner is served and the teenagers are forced to load the dishwasher and I find the broom, I like to get back online and search the internet for advice on potty training and smart mouth teenagers. The internet is full of amazing advice and information and useful tips. You could spend days reading about just one topic, like potty training or healthy meal ideas. I like to pin these things to Pinterest so the next time I come home tipsy and don’t feel like sleeping yet I have something to read. The internet is also full of other moms looking for information and tips. We sometimes like to gather in communities, like message boards or Facebook groups.

A weird thing happens when people gather online. If you put a mostly polite and sensible group of mothers together in a real life situation there will be mostly polite and sensible conversation. There may be some passive aggressive cattiness or raised eyebrows, but it generally stays civil. Put that same group of women on an internet message board and suddenly you have the world’s most renowned expert on potty training and breast feeding, her sister Dr. Google and their BFF Snarky McSnarkbritches. If you have kids over 6 months old and you’ve spent any time online you have met them, sometimes entire groups of them.

I’m sure by now they have told you you are poisoning your precious child with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. That’s why I’m here, to set the record straight. My parents occaisionally served me macaroni and cheese throughout my childhood and I am still here to tell you about it. It was delicious and I survived. I also drank kool-aid and ate potato chips and *gasp* hot dogs. There are worse things you can feed your kids. My baby eats carpet fuzz and he’s made it all the way to 10 months old.

I plan to blog about a lot of different stuff, not just parenting and kids, but I wanted to start with a theme that is on my mind a lot. Mom shaming? The Mommy Wars? Call it what you want, I call it a bunch of insecure women trying to make other women just as insecure in some pointless attempt to bolster their own self esteem. You know what actually bolsters your self esteem? Helping. Try it.

Nap is over. I’m going to give the kids a special treat. Cake! Not only cake, but yesterday it was a boob cake. Mmm boobies. And that is as close as I’m ever going to get to talking about the breastfeeding debate.