QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pigs are Flying...

Pigs are flying… my boys have been up in their rooms for most of the day so far “cleaning up” their rooms. I decided that, rather than haphazardly nagging them about it, I would sit down and describe to them, in solemn and copious detail, what needed to be done. Ordinarily when I nag them to clean their rooms, the connotation is that they need to get everything off of the floor to clear a way to walk to their beds and/or vacuum the floor. This involves very carefully taking anything that is on the floor and tossing it onto the bed, under the bed, onto the desk chair, onto the desk, into the closet, in a drawer, or against the wall.

The overwhelming mess is too much for my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) neat personality (see my “Honey Do” post: http://www.literallylaughingoutloud.blogspot.com/2009/02/honey-do.html. )

I generally bury my head in the proverbial sand and hope the rooms disappear into some other dimension. Alas, that hasn’t yet happened.

The urchins (boys) are home from school for spring break this week while I try to continue to work from home. They are bored. They are restless. They are boys. It is chilly outside. I have forbidden the constant watching of television. I frown upon incessant video gaming. Their neighborhood friends are in school. Their rooms need an overhaul. I saw my opportunity. I pounced.

I sat them down this morning, explained the issue (stoically trying not to get emotional), and handed each of them one garbage bag for trash and one for “stuff to give away.” 10-yr-old whined right off the bat: “…but I don’t wanna give anything away…” (This is true, I know. The kid wants to save not only the dollar store “gift” but the plastic bag in which it was packaged). I determinedly ignored him and catalogued the things that needed to be accomplished: reorganize their bookshelves, take everything out from under the bed, reorganize their junk baskets, clean out their drawers, get everything off of the floor… in essence, pick up every single item that currently exists in your room, evaluate and prioritize the necessity of its presence there, and establish an organizational system resulting in everything’s ending up in its proper place or in the trash can….

Awww, mom… why can’t you assign us this stuff on school days? We’re on ‘vacation.’ ”

“You don’t have time on school days.”

“We don’t wanna spend all day cleaning our rooms..”

A bribe and a few hours, later, I’ve created a monster and I’m a little frightened. Motivated by the knowledge that I will take them to see Race to Witch Mountain in the movie theater if I am satisfied with their jobs, they are upstairs in their rooms, quietly “cleaning.” Bribes are a beautiful, beautiful thing. Did I mention that they’re quiet? The usual, incessant cacophony typified by one’s constant singing and the other’s constant humming (never the same tune) has even been hushed; apparently they’re unable to multi-task.

Now… I haven’t been upstairs to observe the progress and/or process ( 1- I’m scared of what I may see and 2- I’m working), but I know what I hear and what they bring down to me.

Every 5 minutes (this is just an average), one of them plods downstairs exclaiming: “hey! Look at this! I forgot I had this…” At this rate, as they play with and marvel at every item they rediscover, I estimate that this project will take approximately 114 more days. So far they have unearthed (and these are only the treasures they have brought downstairs to show me) various sized-cups, some filled with unidentifiable liquid; a plastic iPod holder; a plastic spinning toy made at the Chicago museum of Science and Industry a few years ago; a snakeskin; various rocks, neon personalized golf balls, a Toblerone chocolate wrapper, a good luck charm I schlepped back from Beijing, a wooden candle holder crafted in cub scouts years ago (yes… a wooden candle holder); and an Easter basket. I have heard various beeps and whistles, at one point punctuated by my begging for the incessant beep to stop. The 10-year-old brought down the plastic iPOD holder (which was part of the packaging when it was new) and had an entertaining conversation with himself about whether to keep it… “hmmm. I probably don’t need this [gets ready to break it in half and chuck it] but then what if I’m traveling and I have it in my suitcase or a backpack and if I need some way to hold it so that it doesn’t break because after all it is kind of fragile because people have told me about theirs breaking and what if I throw this out and then I can’t find anything like this again… I’d better keep it.” I did open my mouth to contribute to the one-sided conversation but the effort was useless, thwarted pretty much immediately. There’s no interrupting the 10-year-old once he gets started on an elegant soliloquy. Do we all know the “This one time, at band camp, …” chick from American Pie?… that’s the 10-year-old. He’s my “this one time at band camp” child. One must tune him out if one is to accomplish anything at all during the day. (My almost-13-year-old unfortunately noticed my propensity to tune them out as he was speaking to me once. I hesitated, then asked: “is what I say always interesting to you?” He pondered for a moment, then responded: “no…. oooohhhhh.” Light bulb. Okay; I felt kinda guilty, but we all know realistically we can’t listen to our kids actively/effectively 100% of the time… or even 50%...If you’re one of those perfect parents who does, then you can’t be friends with me, your loss. And stop reading my blog.)

Anyway, my older son brought down the wooden candle holder, designed to house a votive candle inside a wooden box painted haphazardly in primary colors. He asked:

“Do you want this, ma?”

“Awwww…,” I answered (he had made it in cub scouts), “no.”

“What am I supposed to do with it?” he asked.

“My love, we can’t possibly keep everything you ever made when you were little. We could give it away?” I suggested.

“Well… who would want this?” he intelligently responded, [exactly my point...] “You’re throwing it in the trash can even as you’re saying ‘awwww.’ ” Lol. He knows me too well.

At one point as I was focused on a work email, the almost 13-year-old came down the stairs en media ras of the room clean-up, muttering, as he walked past my office, “I need some butter…”

“mmm hmmm,” I subconsciously nodded. Then I did a mental double-take… butter? Huh?

Turns out he had found an old mood ring a friend had given him and hastily shoved it onto his finger. Surprise, surprise. His finger had gotten larger in the 5 to 8 years it’s been since he’s known he owned a mood ring. Not to worry, a little Glass Plus saved the day.

It’s been hours now and they seem to be really dedicated to this project…. After lunch I did muster the courage to go up and take a look. Their rooms look exactly the same to me, no change whatsoever. I started to nag, but then I realized that, though it is slow-going and not at all yielding the results for which I had hoped, they nonetheless are occupied, quiet, not at war, and ostensibly cleaning up… maybe I’ll get them to clean out the garage next.


  1. OH MY GOSH, this brought back memories for me. I was the world's worst nightmare untidy kid. (Okay, honestly, I'm a really cluttered adult, too.) My mom would send me to my room with a "don't come out until it's clean" command. I never left my room for about eight years.

    One time I came home and she had dumped every drawer in my room onto my bed and said, "I guess you'll have to clean that up before you go to sleep." It's amazing how little space one actually needs to sleep on. :)

    I hope your boys are better to you than I was to my mom! I'm not sure how she lived through it.

  2. lol. I can't imagine dumping every drawer in their rooms onto their beds. holy cow. Interestingly, I don't think I was the neatest kid, either... but something clicked along the way...

    hey - thanks for writing about brussel sprouts in my honor! :)


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