Wednesday, December 21, 2005

No luck cleaning after kids

By Deana Nall
Baytown Sun

Published December 21, 2005

There’s a chicken in my closet. Not a real one, a shiny little plastic one. He belongs on the back of a shiny plastic tractor driven by Elmo, who is also shiny and plastic.

I’ve tried keeping toys out of our bedroom. But they won’t stay out. They seem to gravitate right out of their toy boxes and down the hall.

Recently I came across Erma Bombeck’s quote about how cleaning your house while kids are living in it is like shoveling the sidewalk while it’s still snowing.

Actually, it’s worse than that. It would be easy if kids only undid the work you just did. But they take it much, much further. If you have neatly folded laundry stacked in the living room, your first-grader will careen right through the middle of it on her scooter. Now you have the pile of clothes you had before you folded it.

But wait. They’re not done.

Then the baby will walk by, lean over the pile and vomit Cheerios and apple juice into the pile before grabbing your very last pair of pre-motherhood Victoria’s Secret panties and carrying them to some undisclosed location in the house, where they will be lost forever.

I try to stay on top of all the messes around here. Really, I do. But almost on a daily basis, I encounter a mess I just cannot deal with at the time.

Like the Goldfish crackers in our oldest daughter’s room, I don’t remember when they spilled all over the carpet. I just remember noticing the mess at the end of an exhausting day after Julia was already in bed, or I would have had her pick them up. It was a good two weeks before I thought about those Goldfish crackers again. I thought about them just as I saw Julia’s baby sister grab a handful of them and put them in her mouth.

Hey, at least I didn’t have to clean them up.

Let me review some of the other messes I’ve encountered around here lately. The white picket fence from our miniature Christmas village turned up in the cat’s litter box the other day. I found a banana peel in the baby’s laundry basket. And a few days ago, my husband followed a trail of white lotion through the house to our 15-month-old, who was standing there with my giant bottle of Jergen’s and a big, lotiony smile on her face.

Sometimes I think about my friends who are single or retired with a tinge of jealousy.

Maybe one day I’ll know what it’s like to walk through the house in the middle of the night without stepping on the shiny, plastic swine section of Old MacDonald’s farm, or get dressed without finding that a clan of dollhouse people has taken up residence in my sock drawer.

Until then, I’m revising Erma Bombeck’s comment. I would say that cleaning a house while children are living in it would be more like shoveling the sidewalk while it’s still snowing, and while someone is jack-hammering the sidewalk into pieces, and while termites are chewing the handle of your shovel into sawdust, and while your mother-in-law is driving by with her window down, yelling, “You’re still working on that? What have you been doing all day?”


  • At Wed Dec 21, 06:03:00 AM, Blogger elizabeth said…

    Oh, how I love this post! I actually have that Bombeck expression on a magnet on my refridgerator.

    Messy house is the hardest things about being a parent to me. The maid came yesterday, and I informed the boys that they weren't allowed to use any bathroom but theirs until after the holidays!

  • At Wed Dec 21, 07:01:00 AM, Blogger Karen said…

    I have the saying at the top of my blog. But all the quote resources I checked say it's a Phyllis Diller quote, not Erma. It does sound very much like something Erma would say, though!

  • At Wed Dec 21, 08:38:00 AM, Blogger "Snapshot" said…

    Erma is one of my favorites.
    Yes, it's hard when they are little and now that mine are 14 and 10, I regret to say that it's still no easier. I hear (from my mother) that it doesn't get any easier to keep a clean house until the kids have moved out. I enjoy the kids, hate the mess and have struggled to learn to live with it.
    Trying to get kids to help keep the house clean has been like trying to herd cats.
    And I'm jealous of Elizabeth's post saying "the maid came yesterday".

  • At Wed Dec 21, 10:46:00 AM, Blogger That Girl said…

    I'm single, the house stays pretty straight... I still run into the door frame or kick furniture in the night. I know toys must make it worse but... life just isn't easy no matter who you ask!

  • At Wed Dec 21, 12:37:00 PM, Blogger WinniePhew said…

    When my daughter was a young thing, her room used to look like a ... well nevermind ... it might get back to her that I said something ... anyway she was a delight and still is ...


  • At Wed Dec 21, 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    As I live out my musician life here in Austin, I'm proud to tell my non-musician friends that my sister is a stay at home mom and part of a regular family!!

    My music friends think its pretty cool too.

    Thanks for the dose of reality...sometimes I fantasize about being married and having I have something to refer back to, to remind me why I like where I am!

  • At Wed Dec 21, 01:59:00 PM, Blogger janjanmom said…

    I love it!! Glad I could help inspire you!! Thanks for being many times we try to pretend we've got it all together with laundry all done up and house all tidy...who are we kidding...REALLY?

    I read it in an Erma Bombeck book, maybe she credited PD, but I think it was an EB original. I mean let's face it, PD did not clean!

  • At Wed Dec 21, 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Are you getting email yet? CP

  • At Wed Dec 21, 03:25:00 PM, Blogger Paige Robins said…

    What? Not having children equals having a clean house? What kind of people are y'all!?!?!?! Do cats count as children, because my house is never clean. I'll get one room clean then another one is dirty and by the time I've finished that one, the first one is dirty again! You mean it's going to be worse when I have kids?!?!?!?!?

  • At Wed Dec 21, 03:52:00 PM, Blogger SG said…

    Don't think of it as dirty, think of it as asthetically challenged. My cousin used to laugh when I said "It looks like my house threw-up all over itself," then she had kids.

  • At Thu Dec 22, 08:11:00 AM, Blogger Mae said…

    Our house keeper came yesterday... I spent ALL DAY Tuesday trying to pick up and put away so that the wonderful lady who cleans my house wouldn't think we were slobs! Oh, to be able to have just one little clutter free corner.

  • At Thu Dec 22, 02:18:00 PM, Blogger Heather said…


    Carol sent me your blog address. . . love the posts. Cleaning house -- {sigh} with 3 kids, I throw up my hands and give up most days.

    I'd forgotten that you'd known Patrick for so long. That is amazing the way things turned out.

    Andy and I mentioned you and Chad to our principal a year or so back . . .Matt Kimball. We had to talk about that Alaska connection.

    Enjoyed reading your blog.

    Heather Gunn

  • At Thu Dec 22, 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Jacinda said…


  • At Fri Dec 23, 09:59:00 AM, Blogger Amy said…

    Merry Christmas, Deana! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face as I read your blogs. And can relate to so many of them, especially this one!

  • At Fri Dec 23, 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Amy said…

    I only wish I could relate to the size sixes.


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