Monday, June 25, 2018

The Purge, Part 3

School ended about two weeks ago and the housecleaning has begun in earnest. Except not really. Between my swimming attempts and so many doctor's appointments--Marian got five shots and didn't even cry, but those eyes got pretty wide by the end--and other obligations, I have only just begun. The thank yous I said I would do before I started cleaning aren't finished either. I decided to take a write a little, clean a little approach. Also the week my children are gone on vacation to my parents' house has arrived and I am nowhere near working on the kitchen. That's the way it goes. It always takes longer than you ever expected.

Anyway, on to the first room! Well, the first official room. The first room was actually the living room, which had descended into a bit of squalor by the end of the school year, but is always in a semi-messy state so it doesn't really count even though it did take a bit of time.

The first official room is Sam and Marian's bedroom. The befores:

So there it is.  Yes, Marian, age 5, still sleeps in a crib. Yes, we have a bunk bed that has boxes of clothes in need of sorting and suitcases on top instead of a mattress. Baby steps. 

Even though I am calling this part of The Purge, this is not the part where I purge. My strategy in the bedrooms is to get all the toys that do not belong out of the room, pick up the trash, and create a little bit of order. The real purge will happen in the room adjacent to the bedrooms, but again, baby steps. 

There is not much to say about process here. Ella enjoyed her stint in baby jail, AKA Marian's crib. 

I filled two grocery bags worth of garbage in this little room. Does everyone's children take scissors to cut paper into little pieces of confetti to sprinkle all over their floors? Just mine? In the course of clearing the floor, I moved the pile of stuffed animals and discovered a half filled black trash bag. Who? Why? How long?

This discovery did lead me to develop a new theory of garbage collection. 

I am about to reveal one of my neuroses to you. I feel guilty about throwing away garbage bags that are not full. Isn't it wasteful to under-utilize a bag? I should not throw it away until it is full, even if it takes a few days because then I am not wasting space or plastic.  I am being efficient with my supplies.

This, friends, is nuts. 

My new theory is that I should throw away the bag at the end of every session, even if--gasp--it is not full. My peace of mind in guaranteeing the removal of garbage is worth more than the efficient use of the never-ending supply of free plastic bags from the grocery store. I have learned through hard won experience that if you don't throw out that half-full bag, the children will helpfully redistribute the garbage for you or, inexplicably, pile their stuffed animals on top of it. What's sad is that I really had to come to terms with this idea. 

So in addition to my two full grocery bags of trash, I threw out the buried 30 gallon bag that had been sitting at the bottom of a pile for an unclear amount of time. Small victories. 

And behold, after two days of work, the results:

It's not perfect. I need to put hooks behind the door so their bags have a place to go. The top of the bunk bed still has suitcases and boxes of clothes that need better homes. (The clothes are in line to be sorted after the upstairs toy room is purged. Maybe?) The stuffed animal solution of cramming them all into that one laundry basket is not great. Maybe I should get a second basket? Trying to get the children to part with any of them is like pulling teeth. I have dusted nothing, and I need a solution for their personal papers so that they don't get spread all over the house. But it is a good start.

The next room is the big girls' bedroom, which is a horror. A horror. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Swimming Update

On Monday, I took all the children out to our property. Did I mention we bought some property last year? I can't remember. Probably because I was 9 months pregnant when we closed on it. So last August we bought seven acres of land just about ten minutes away from our current house on which we will, one fine day, build a house, if ever we scrape up the money to do such a thing. This property is hereafter referred to as "the land" until we can agree upon a proper name. I feel like it should have a name in the manner of an English estate. Suggestions?

Back to Monday. We recently came into possession of a goodly number of bricks that needed to be transported to the land. Everyone wanted to help Daddy unload the bricks, but only one person can ride in Daddy's truck so I was engaged to bring the balance of children to help Daddy unload bricks. It was north of 90 degrees, the middle of the afternoon, and a good time was had by all. By the end of the day, however, it was apparent I had made acquaintance with a veritable colony of chiggers who had enjoyed feasting upon my tender skins.

Tuesday was a horror of itching and by Wednesday morning, my ability to resist the urge to scratch was waning fast. "We are going swimming," I announced suddenly at about 10 o'clock in the morning, thinking the water might could lessen the itch.

Unlike the well-planned and prepared outing I had hoped for at the end of the last swimming trip, this was a circus of cat herding. Desperate times and all. Nothing was together. The children's swimsuits were damp from sprinkler running the previous day. I carried forth anyway. We finally got out of the house at 11:30am. No, I didn't bring any food this time either.

I signed Ella (and Sam and Marian) into childcare, remembering Ella's ridiculous crawling socks, at 11:55am. The lady pointedly asked me if I knew when childcare closed. "Yes. 1pm," I responded. "No, 12:55pm," she answered. "Or before that if possible," another woman chimed in. Sure, lady. I internally rolled my eyes. Out the door, big girls to the gym, and to the locker room.

I got into the pool with my green floaty noodle at 12:05. Sweet, sweet relief. I was right. The water *did* take the itch away. I swam back and forth. I was, by far, the slowest person in the lanes. Still, my newly purchased earplugs allowed me to put my head in the water without dying. I even once swam half the length of the pool and back without my floaty noodle! I will get stronger. I will. I enjoyed 30 minutes of itch free bliss.

Out of the pool and back to childcare by 12:45. Ella is crawling around without her socks. The woman hands me her socks and tells me these socks are insufficient because Ella keeps pulling them off and that I need to bring better socks next time. I blink. Does there exist a baby who does not pull off her socks? Has the person who created these rules ever met a baby? No matter. We carry on. I'll see if I can find the baby slippers.

I gather all the children and make ready for the pool. Sunscreen application is less hectic because it is cloudy so I am less concerned with total coverage on the big kids, and I bought a lotion for baby which is easier to apply. I blow up the baby floater ring I bought for Ella. This is my solution for two non-swimmers. Ella can sit in the ring, but I can let go of her in the moment if I need both hands for some reason. All kids into the pool. I walk with Ella in her float ring on one arm and Marian in the other arm. I also made sure that a big kid is assigned to Marian if ever I needed to turn my attention away from her. No attempted drownings this time.

Ella, once again, falls asleep. Is this stress? This is so weird to me for her to sleep every time she is in a pool. Her pool exposure has made bathtime a little less excruciating, though. She still cries, but not as long or as loud.

At ten minutes to 2, the whistle blows and it is time for everyone to exit the pool. I guess there is a ten minute break at the top of every hour? We are learning. This is our cue to leave. Still, in total a solid two hours of chigger itch relief. Everyone out of the pool and dried off and hurry, hurry, hurry because I have a hair appointment at 3. Time management is not my strong point. We still haven't eaten lunch.

I pull into the driveway at 2:40. It's pouring down rain. I run into the house, hastily nurse a baby, jump into the shower to soap off, get dressed, grab the baby in the car seat and run back out the door at 2:55. All the rest of the kids stay home with Dave to eat lunch. I roll into the salon at 3:15 for my 3pm appointment. My hairdresser looks at me and says, "I was starting to get worried. You are never late." She obviously doesn't know me very well.

I am going to do this summer swimming thing if I bust wide open.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Morning Swim, First Attempt

(Note: I wrote about half of this yesterday before collapsing from exhaustion. Just pretend you are reading this yesterday.)

Back in April, I bought a summer pass to our local rec center because I wanted to give the children more opportunities to swim and also get myself into a swimming pool more often. It has long been a fantasy of mine to go swimming on a regular basis. If you dug around the interwebz, you'd probably find more than one place where I mentioned my desire to go swim laps. Or whined. I might have been whining. My goal for the summer is to try to hit the pool once a week. Today, after the bulk of the schoolwork has been finished at long last, I decided to do a trial run on a morning swim.

The indoor pool opens before I ever care to be awake and is largely reserved for lap swimmers. The outdoor pool opens at 10am. The plan was to leave home around 9, get Ella and Marian (and maybe Sam) signed into the babysitting room by 930, send the big kids to the gym, swim laps for 30 minutes in the indoor pool, round up all the children, and give them an hour in the outdoor pool. We should be home by noon, in time for lunch.

Here is what actually happened:

We didn't leave the house until 1015. Why the delay? Nobody got dressed when they got up like they had been told. Nothing was together. Breakfast wasn't finished until after nine. We ran around trying to get everything ready. Lots of arguing about goggles. I am slow. Children stare a lot.

     Action Item #1: Get it all together the previous night.

We arrive at the rec center. I boldly walk to the front desk and declare my ignorance. I ask how to get into childcare and how to get a locker. I sign for a locker key and have to leave my car keys.

Sam and Marian agreed to stay with Ella in childcare. Since this was their first time, I had to fill out the information sheets for each of them. I learned that, surprise! all children must have some kind of foot covering in order to be allowed free movement. Even the 8m old. The lady told me Ella would have to be confined to a jumpy chair. Something, something protecting feet from getting stepped on? How socks accomplish this, I am unsure. Also siblings are not allowed to pick up baby. Oh yay. Certain this will not end well, the childcare worker picks Ella up and turns away from the door and I sneak out. The time is 1050.

     Action Item #2: Find footwear for Ella.

I make my way into the locker room. I shove all our supplies into the locker, take my coverup off, grab my towel, and without shame, carry my green floaty noodle into the pool area. I discover all the swim lanes are claimed so I have to decide which person I get to bother and ask to share a lane. I decide to ask an older lady who seems to be swimming slowly. She agrees.

And there I am. In a pool! I am sorry to admit I have forgotten how to float. I need that green floaty noodle. However I am undeterred.  I start kicking laps, back and forth. I try to float on my back. I remember how to do this, but discover that getting water in my ears makes my eardrums feel like they might explode. Was it always like this? No matter. The slow, older lady regularly laps me. My legs burn before I swim one length. No matter. I am swimming in a pool like a boss. A boss with a green floaty noodle. I swim for 30 entire minutes. I attempt to get out of the pool. I cannot pull myself out of the water. I have to cross two rope lines to get the steps. Under the water, ears exploding, under the rope, out of the pool. I did it! I swam by myself for exercise!

     Action Item #3:  Figure out how to stop the problem of the exploding eardrums.
     Action Item #4:  Remember how to float.
     Action Item #5:  Get stronger.

I dry off and go to retrieve Ella from childcare. It's been an hour and close to noon. (How does it take 15 minutes on either side of the pool?) I open the door to find her crawling all over the floor. They decided to make an exception to the no crawling without socks rule just this one time. Whatever. I am told she got significantly upset several times, but Sam and Marian did an outstanding job of calming her down. Everyone survived! Grace and Olivia appear out of nowhere.

Now back to the locker room to get all the children ready to swim in the outdoor pool. This takes a ridiculous amount of time. We finally go out to the pool and have to apply sunscreen. This takes an even more ridiculous amount of time. The Kroger brand spray sunscreen doesn't want to spray. It takes my two hands and a lot of pressure. I have to rely on the children to spray me. They could barely work the can. Ella has to be sprayed too. She is unimpressed. The stranger child watching her scream while I tried to cover her in sunscreen observed, "I feel sorry for that baby."

     Action Item #6:  Don't cheap out on sunscreen.

Finally the children are given leave to get in the pool. It is now 12:30, 30 minutes after I expect to be home. We are having a learning experience. Ella is hungry so I feed her. She and I get in the pool at about 12:40. She is unsure but splashes a little while I hold her on my hip. The lifeguard whistles everyone out of the pool at 12:50 for a ten minute break. We are, indeed, having a learning experience.

The children want a snack. We don't have food. I am that kind of mother. We decide to wait out the break, get back in the pool another 15-20 minutes and then go home.

While in the pool after the break, I have Ella on one hip and Marian on the other walking back and forth at 3.5 feet in the very crowded pool because neither can swim. Marian asks to go play on the slide that's at 1 foot depth. She quickly changes her mind and attempts to drown herself by walking back out to me further than she can touch. Fun times. (M was fine. It's mostly horrifying in retrospect since I didn't know she was coming and I turned around to find her flailing for me. She didn't even cough any water.) Ella, in the meantime, falls asleep on my hip. This makes twice she has conked out in a pool. Is it that relaxing or is this a stress response?

     Action Item #7:  Try to avoid the 1 o'clock pool break.
     Action Item #8:  Talk to Marian (again) about pool safety. (How do you keep two non-swimming children safe in a pool at the same time? There's only one of me.)

Finally, it is time to go. We get out, dry off, and head back home. We pull into the driveway at 230pm. We are starving. Crankily, children are tended and fed. I eat lunch at 3:20. I collapse in a heap for the rest of the day.

     Action Item #9:  Figure out how to go on a morning swim and eat lunch before late afternoon. 

So there it is! I successfully executed a swim outing. It didn't go exactly as planned, but I managed to do it. I fought multiple rounds of discouragement but decided it was a preliminary run. We will try again next week.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Purge, Part 2

This really isn't a post, just an update to say we are still doing school. Hurrah. I feel time slowing creeping and I want to be finished probably more than the children so I can get on with organizing all the things. Did I say children? Well, I meant child. Two of the three children are finished with their schoolwork. The third perseveres. Mostly though, I want to think about how to approach the work.

The first thing I have to do on my summer vacation is not related to school at all but to the baby. I have not written any thank-you notes for anything related to Ella's arrival. I heap ashes on my head. I am sure people will raise their eyebrows at getting an acknowledgement nine months after the fact, but I will send them anyway in my humiliation. It's not that I didn't mean to write them. It just kept not happening.

After that bit is finished, I have decided to start in Sam and Marian's room. It is a mess, but easily brought back to reasonable. Any ideas for stuffed animals? After that, I will move to Grace and Olivia's room, which really cannot be described. I know they have a floor because the living room ceiling has not collapsed. That's all I can really say about that room. Then, I will work on the toy area in the room that connects the upstairs bedrooms. Those three rooms will probably take me two weeks. Maybe? Hopefully not longer. Hard to say. There's so much stuff.

I will then move to the kitchen, I think. Or my closet? Depends. I want to do the kitchen while the children spend a week at my parents and are not home. I think that whole week will be dedicated to the kitchen. The pantry, the closet under the stairs, both fridges, all the freezers, under the sink, the drawers. I have to be careful not to be sucked permanently into the kitchen.

I think the last item on my agenda will be the paperwork. I think. It's hard to know what you should give a cursory pickup and what you should take the time and deep clean. The goal is to deep clean all of it, but I am trying to prioritize. The bookcases and several closets need totally reorganized, but what can wait?

So I will keep you updated on progress and grope around trying to find the next best thing to do. Ideas, as always, are welcome.