Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When the cat's away the mice do play

My intentions for "The week that Chris is out of town" were hopeful, at best. I planned to totally clean and organize the house to an unprecedented and unrecognizeable extent, go on outings and bike rides with my happy and non-whiny children, have multiple 'girls-nights-in' with my friends, and so much more.

Since I had the expectation of deep cleaning the entire house by next Friday, I figured I would just do it once before he got home. I started the weekend by treating the kitchen with reckless abandon, piling dishes upon dishes in the sink (unrinsed), leaving PB&J remains on the table for days, sweeping crumbs onto the floor, and ultimately re-trashing the kitchen every 12 hours. My kitchen is kind of an auger for the rest of my house, meaning that if my kitchen is in order, I feel like I can keep the rest of the house in order, and vice-versa. So it should be no surprise that I find it rewarding to marathon-clean my kitchen.

Instead, owing to the state of my kitchen, dirty clothes piled up on the bathroom floor and spread into the hallway, the sheets became a tangled mess on the bed, the living room rug became a haven for leaves and dirt and cereal crumbs, diapers got tossed into a pile. All my well-intentioned projects had been half-started and then abandoned.

Given the state of my house and the solitary company of two children under the age of three, I embraced the opportunity to be depressed and so I resorted to eating cookies over the kitchen sink for dinner while my toddler had leftover mac & cheese and the baby drank a bottle. There's a half-eaten container of ice cream in the freezer-you can bet your life that it will be gone by the end of the week. The bed was too lonely for sleeping, so I stayed up late watching dumb teeny-bopper flicks and reading teeny-bopper books and letting gravity pull the tears out of the eye closest to the pillowcase (I wasn't really crying--does that happen to any one else?). Of course, even though mom stays up late, the kids still wake up at sunrise. Then I have to zonk out on the couch while the kids watch cartoons all morning, after which the pajamas undoubtedly see lunch-time. Again. Plus I look like House, I'm popping so much Ibuprofen.

Okay, so everyone was fed and dressed, but I wasn't exactly enjoying life as a hermit. It is so easy to feel sorry for myself! Then it occurred to me that I wanted to clean the house not just for my honey, but because I like having a clean house too. Why should I wait in a dirty house for him to come home, only to scramble about and stress and burn-out on Thursday, when I could live peacefully in a clean home all week. Come to think of it, if I cleaned it at the beginning of the week, the towels would stay hung up neatly, the toilet seats would stay down, and the shoes put away just how I like it. What an epiphany! (Okay, in defense of my dear husband, he does hang up his towels and he usually puts the toilet seat down, but don't get me started on the shoes).

So I cleaned the kitchen and vacuumed the rug and patched bike tires so I could take the kids on a bike-ride to the park. I set a 50 gallon Rubbermaid tub in front of the house as a make-shift pool, providing at least 2 hours of entertainment, busted out the play dough, ventured to McDonald's for a Happy Meal and playtime on the slides, and let Leah stay up late one night having a sleep over in my bed, complete with a late-night movie. But of course, there was still whining, and in two days the baby cut two teeth. That wasn't fun for anyone.

But here's where I wished I'd had a photographer nearby. The moment when the whining and potty-time bribing and the state of the kitchen didn't matter: One night I had been rocking the baby and singing to him to calm him down before bed time. I went into the kids' room to put him down, and Leah, who had been in bed at least an hour but had heard me singing said "Rock me." So there I sat in my rocking chair, with my 7-month old baby on one arm, and my 2 1/2 year old little girl curled up in the other, each wrapped in a blanket, rocking and singing our favorite primary songs in the dark. "These are my gems," I said to myself. That was a really happy moment. Maybe I can go on one more day.


Sara said...

What a lovely post :) It's the little things in life that really put everything else into perspective, huh? Thanks for sharing!

Jessica said...

I can totally relate! Joe has been gone soo much. it's a vicious cycle once start waiting to clean before he gets home. Plus, when I have totally cleaned the house perfectly in the past, he didn't even notice!! So, now I just keep it mediocrily clean, and forget about trying to wow my husband. Also, every time I post a story like this on my blog, I get all these sympathy letters "you can do it" and "Joe will be home soon, hang in there", which are just annoying to me. So, I won't say those things, but I will say, enjoy the time not having to clean up all those shoes! :)

Joseph and Annie Hatch said...

Hey Jenny!! Cute blog! Thanks for the ice-cream tonight. It was a lot of fun!

Rebecca said...

What a nice reminder about the things that matter most!

angela michelle said...

I totally agree--the clean house is for YOU. But sometimes it is fun to trash the schedule and just do whatever. Levi always tries to sleep with me when Mark is gone, and I usually let him, just for fun.