Learning to Love Housekeeping

It’s an ongoing thing for me. It helps that I was raised in a family that values housework, in which both parents adopted and enjoyed certain tasks. (Except ironing, which nobody claimed.) It helps that I’m an introvert who also enjoys structuring her own time. But beyond this foundation, I’ve had a lot to learn — I was a pretty useless kid, and until I was about 25, I moved often enough that I never had to clean baseboards or ovens. (Though I really probably should have.)

Still, here are some of my professional (homemaker) interests at the moment:

  • Roasting vegetables: For the first five years of our marriage, there were only two varieties of vegetables J and I prepared at home: green salad and jarred pasta sauce. We aren’t a lot better now, but I’m trying, honest. Lately, I’ve been moseying over to our local Sharp Shopper (which really deserves its own post on its manifold attractions), where I snag a bunch of vegetables that look attractive (HA, says 15-year-old Katherine), and then one day when the babes are sleeping or playing independently, I prep and roast them all on one pan, then divide them up and use them in stuff. I get to feel smug about serving crispity roast brussel sprouts, and roast broccoli in my pasta sauce and mushrooms and asparagus in my quiche. It reminds me of the line in Sisterland — “I heard myself say to Ben, ‘I’m going to compost the rest of the bok choy,’ and pretty much everything I was smug about then was encapsulated in that single sentence.
  • Hampers for the kids: I asked my parents to get Pippin a truck hamper for Christmas, and they did, even though now they think I’m even lamer than the year I asked for a vacuum for my birthday. (It’s a really great vacuum.) So now we have a hamper for Pippin’s room and I appropriated a toy bin for Scout’s room to use as a hamper there, and WHO KNEW, Pippin actually loves to put dirty clothes in the hamper. So each weekday morning the three of us straighten up the kids’ rooms. It takes about ten minutes and then their rooms don’t look like crap. Please note: our room still looks like crap, because ten minutes won’t begin to put a dent in it.
  • Evening audiobooks: I’ve mentioned them before, but seriously, one of my favorite parts of the day is now cleaning up after dinner. J takes the kids downstairs to “bond” with them (wrestle and watch David Attenborough documentaries, as far as I can tell), and until Scout starts up her dinosaur chorus of shrieks summoning her personal milk truck, I wash dishes and straighten up and fold and put away laundry. And all the while I listen to Librivox recordings of classics, or, more recently, digital audiobooks from the library. Free hands, clear head, can’t lose, or something like that.
  • Slow cooker batch prep: On the days when I’m not using the slow cooker to make the meal itself, I try to put it to work for something else. Great things I’ve found to make in there: caramelized onions; roasted garlic; and even my arch nemesis, dried beans. Having these pre-prepared ingredients makes it easier to make meals special, and if I never have to sauté another onion at dinnertime as the baby bounces frantically in her exersaucer and the toddler hurtles trucks under my feet, it will be too soon.

Mater’s Tall Tales

Some of my most-regretted purchases as a parent come from thrift shops.

At the time, it seems like such a small price to pay. $.50 for a toy or book and Pippin will give me leave to wander and browse, to find myself a pair of jeans, or score some pajamas for Eleanor’s second winter.

But then we end up with bizarre stuff, because inevitably he chooses the worst item on offer. We’ve lugged home decrepit fire trucks immediately (and eternally) relegated to the “repair shop” of Papa’s desk. It’s how we ended up buying back (!!!) a terrible Bob the Builder board book I’d donated to the family center tag sale. And fairly recently, we came home with our very own copy of Mater’s Tall Tales.

Pippin loves Tow Mater, and this book has become the bane of our existence. He wants it read to him day in and day out, and when we aren’t reading it to him, he’s “reading” it to his poor unsuspecting little sister. He’s memorized it to a hitherto unprecedented degree, and when a sweet guest tried to skim it in her reading, he firmly pointed out the passages she’d skipped.

At first it was kind of fun to channel my South Georgia college roommates and lay the accent on nice and thick, and to be fair, the book is gently funny for the first 37 readings. (It beats the hell out of that Bob the Builder book, anyway.) Eventually, my hatred of Mater began to fester.

All the while, though, these last few weeks, we’ve been making grownup plans for Pippin. We joined waitlists for a preschool and a homeschool co-op, and started him on swim lessons, which he bravely attends in order to earn a yogurt raisin reward afterwards.

And I realized I’ve been overlooking what a big deal Mater’s Tall Tales is in Pippin’s life: not just another truck book, the fruit of a lifelong obsession, but a step toward literacy. As he flips the pages himself, quoting the adored book verbatim, I find, for the moment, I can remain patient.

After all, ladies and gentlecars, soon he’ll be reading on his own, and maybe I’ll miss this endless stream of inane truck books.


What kind of monster invented jumbo jars of peanut butter?

I’m guessing some childless jerk who has never known the stress of the lunchtime rush compounded with knuckles smeared with peanut butter as he frantically scrapes the bottom of the cavernous jar.

I hate you, Giant Peanut Butter Jar Man.

on being the kind of person who contemplates purchasing a diaper cream applicator tool

A few weeks ago, I sat at the local gelato shop with a friend and mother of four. As I chipped away at my chocolate gelato with that tiny shovel they give you, savoring the freedom granted me by my babysitting parents — unaware that the baby was about to wake up wailing — we talked about how our Christmases had gone.

Mine was one for the books, in which we survived and even at times flourished while traveling 2,100 miles in three weeks with two little kids. But it was also a time when I had to get into diaper cream in a big way — those little bums didn’t take well to so much car travel, after all.

My friend was talking about how there was a period in her life when two of her childhood friends kept racking up personal achievements while she mostly just kept having babies. I think I know what she meant — how you can feel comically divorced from the life you thought you wanted, the one that keeps marching on beyond you as you become an expert in realms you never expected to even visit.

For awhile at that point, I’d been eyeing the Baby Bum Brush Diaper Cream Applicator Tool (Blue). I was beyond sick of applying butt paste a half dozen times a day, and ready any break I could get in the routine. But another part of me couldn’t believe I was the kind of person who’d even consider a ridiculous purchase like this. I did really well in college! I have a master’s degree! My soul rebelled at even having to apply diaper cream at all. It’s way below my pay grade.

Except, of course, that I don’t actually have a pay grade anymore.

Then last week, Scout underwent a round of antibiotics and it was back to the Desitin in a big way, and I still didn’t have my Baby Bum Brush Diaper Cream Applicator Tool (Blue). I muddled on just the same as the antibiotics blasted through her system, smearing it on over and over with a thousand diaper changes, staring vacantly out the window at the melting snow.

But something happened, in time. I still don’t like having to touch that little rashy butt, but I began to appreciate the small rhythm in my day, the pause from the noise of toddler play, moving to a quiet room, staring out a sunny window, and waiting a beat or two for a little bum to dry. I’s a moment where I can think my own thoughts uninterrupted, can tickle a soft, warm baby belly, then sit in a dim room and read a snatch of e-book.

I am still not sure if I’m the kind of person to buy a Baby Bum Brush Diaper Cream Applicator Tool (Blue), but I might be becoming the kind of person who doesn’t mind applying diaper cream and soothing a little person, and that seems no small accomplishment.

making the switch

After almost nine years over at tumblr, I’m finally fed up enough with the NSFW blogs, loss of replies, and the incompatibility between what it’s designed for (reblogging) and how I use it (regular blogging).

I’m actually really sad and conflicted to be leaving tumblr. It’s an archive to a huge chunk of my (internet) life, from pre-engagement to married with two kids. Some of the bloggers there I’ll still follow — people who I’ve rooted for as they’ve made their way through early parenthood or library school — but I’ll be posting here.

So, here I go.

I hope you’ll join me for the ride.