So Many Clothes, So Little Time

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Categories Household and Family Management, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Time ManagementTags , , , , 3 Comments

What would you do if you had three days to yourself? Sleep? Read? Take the world’s longest, bubbliest, hottest bath? Go to Vegas?

My twin daughters, M and J, spent Memorial Day weekend in El Paso with their dad, stepmom, grandparents, and stepsisters. Daddy and Grandpa picked them up immediately after school on Friday, and Daddy and Grandma dropped them off at home around lunchtime on Monday.

I had that entire time to myself. After work on Friday, I went to a happy hour/pizza dinner with my coworkers to celebrate the successful completion of a key project. On Saturday morning, I went to the gym. On Saturday evening, I went over to a coworker’s apartment for game night.

The rest of my time off, I did housework. Don’t get me wrong. I did sleep in and take that long bath, too. My focus of the long weekend, though, was trying to get my house under control. I scrubbed my bathrooms and kitchen to sparkling. I tackled the nightmare that is my daughters’ room. I organized my pantry. I vacuumed and mopped. I put clean sheets on all the beds and washed the dirty ones. I unpacked a couple of boxes from our August move from El Paso to Central Texas. I washed a regular weekend’s quantity of laundry.

I folded laundry. And I folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded laundry. And folded. And folded.

And I put the laundry away. Cool weather clothes got packed up in old bedding bags; that packaging is perfect for long-term storage. A few clothes that the girls have never worn, a precious few they’d outgrown, and a few tops I’ve outgrown went in the charity donation pile. Everything else went on a hanger or in a drawer.

I watched the hours tick by while I folded and stored our linens and clothes. I waved goodbye to the hours I’d hoped to spend baking thank you cookies for the girls’ teachers and after-school counselors. I lingered a longing glance on the time I’d hoped to spend reading. I spared, once again, the lives of weeds towering over me in the back yard. I kissed goodbye to the time I’d planned to spend redoing my photo wall. I’d hoped to frame some of the girls’ artwork and intersperse it among the photos.

I wondered whether we really needed all the clothes we own. One thing about having very small kids who don’t grow very fast is that they can wear the same clothes year after year. After 3 winters, our collection of size 4-6 tights finally kicked the bucket, with their knees racing the toes to the first to surrender to the holes that would inspire my child to yell, “Dead tights!!” Some of the girls’ oldest leggings have suffered the same fate.

My daughters are incredibly easy on their other clothes. Despite my best efforts to find loving homes for clothes that the girls never wear, my kids have enough clothes to consume most of my three day weekend. I don’t even have to sort between their clothes. They share everything but panties, and even that is because they have different preferences. J can’t stand to have elastic touching her skin, so she has to have Hanes panties with a fabric-covered waistband. M loves her days of the week panties. I picked them up on a whim, and had to turn around and get two more packages when she declared her undying love for them; they were the first panties she’s never expressed a fear of falling off.

I digress. They have one small drawer stuffed to overflowing with pajamas. Another bulging drawer houses panties and socks. We have a large dresser drawer for tops, and another for bottoms. Dresses, light cardigans, and dress up clothes fill the girls’ clothes rack. I don’t use the closet rod in the girls’ room because they wouldn’t be able to reach their clothes. Instead, a free-standing clothes rack from Ikea sits inside the closet at its shortest setting.
Drawers are filled to the brim with small clothes.

This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable quantity of clothes for two young American middle class children, but it’s nuts to take care of. It certainly beyond my capacity. My favourite quadruplet mama named her blog the right thing: Buried in Laundry. My girls might not be happy about it, but I suspect that we could get by with far fewer items of clothing. No, I know this to be true. In Bangladesh, where I grew up, it was the norm for all but the richest to receive two new outfits per year.

So why do we, in the developed world, spend so much of our time, money and energy on clothing? My 7-year-olds have already absorbed our culture’s adoration of a varied closet and would never wear the same outfit twice within two weeks, perhaps even a month. My ex-husband was horrified at how long I could keep my clothes. He constantly talked about chucking all my clothes and buying me an entirely new wardrobe, but I couldn’t go there. It seemed like the silliest expenditure of money I could imagine. Don’t get me wrong. I love window shopping and cute clothes. I love to wear clothes to fit my mood, to suit the weather, that make me feel confident and competent and pretty. I don’t need the cute clothes, though, and every new item is something else to add to the laundry insanity that’s already beyond my control.

What’s the secret to staying to keeping your closet manageable? How much clothing do your kids have?

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It Gets Better, Especially When You Don't Clean

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Categories Balance, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Perspective, RoutinesTags , , 5 Comments

When our twins were infants, it would annoy me when other MOMs told me that it would get better.  It was tough, certainly, but it wasn’t “awful” during that period so I didn’t really understand why they kept telling me it would get better.  Then the twins passed 2 1/2 years and OH MY GOSH, did it ever get better.  My husband and I felt like we came up for air for the first time in, oh, 2 1/2 years.  We didn’t even know we were under water before we took those big gulps of air consisting of an easier bedtime, small steps in self-sufficiency, and the ability for the twins to play with each other and older kids in our neighborhood for longer periods of time.  Truly, we look back at the period as the dawn of a new era that we continue to enjoy.

That said, what we did to take advantage of our new found freedom is sort of crazy.  We doubled the size of our vegetable garden, decided to raise chickens for eggs (if you are on the fence about chickens, we totally endorse this), adopted two kittens, and we both began to craft and enjoy our hobbies.  I also began to start running again for about an hour a day, which is singularly the thing I do that spoils me most.  I love exercising and had missed it for many years.

I should mention that I am employed full time and at mid-career, which means increasing job and mentoring responsibilities.

How do I do it?

I do not clean. And I mean that seriously.  I know some of you all say that and perhaps you mean it’s time to change the towels in your bath or you haven’t put away all the clean dishes.  What I mean is that our house is a freaking mess. And while it bothers me, it obviously doesn’t bother me enough to choose cleaning over running/gardening/knitting/chickening/kittening.  There is no way we can afford any help to clean up the house until the twins get out of daycare and we pay off the associated credit card debt in 4 more years or so.

So our solution?  We have parties!!  Yes, it is like killing two birds (but not chickens!) with one stone.  We get to socialize and it forces us to clean the house a few times a year.

I really feel like MOMs get special dispensation in some area of their lives.  For us, we choose to forgive ourselves for living in a messy house.  It makes it so much easier to survive and thrive with our little bunnies.  Our children.  We call our children bunnies.  We would not actually get bunnies.  They would destroy the garden.

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The Rotten Ringworm Runaround

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Infants, Perspective, Pets, Routines, School-AgeTags , , , , 4 Comments

M snuggling her new kitten.We adopted this sweet little boy into our family in November. We also unwittingly adopted the ringworm he brought with him from the animal shelter. While our new kitten, Scout, has brought us much joy and laughter, his ringworm has brought with it a reign of tears and terror.

I’ve learned several things about ringworm:

  • Ringworm isn’t a worm. It’s a fungus. Either way, it’s nasty and gross and, like lice, something that can’t be completely avoided just by keeping a clean home and maintaining good hand-washing habits. If your child interacts with others, she runs the risk of bringing home lice; if your pet has ever been outdoors, he runs the risk of ringworm.
  • Some strains of ringworm defy all attempts at identification. Our little boy’s failed to glow under UV light and didn’t initially make his fur fall out, so the vet misinterpreted the lesion I pointed out at our first visit as a bite from another kitten at the shelter and gave the all-clear for him to interact with my kids. I should trust my gut.
  • This stuff is contagious. All three of the humans in our house had a red itchy patch or two within 3 days of the new kitten’s cuddles.
  • Washing bedsheets every night, plus vacuuming and disinfecting even a single room every day is overwhelming and all-consuming.
  • A ringworm infection to the scalp can’t be treated with topical ointments alone. My poor little J had a bald spot on her head, which I’m thankful can be hidden inside pigtails as it grows out. Our pediatrician referred us to a dermatologist, and J now has a nightly bowl of ice cream to mask the taste of the pulverized pill (griseofulvin) she has to take every day for a month.

We’ve literally been fighting this thing since November. The kitten received weekly lyme sulfur dips as well as a liquid suspension of the same meds J is now on. He’s currently completely free of ringworm, but has to stay in isolation in my bathroom. He was clear in January, too, but I made the mistake of letting him interact with the girls, and he contracted a fresh round of ringworm from them. Thankfully, our adult cats have thus far made it without become hosts for this nasty parasite.

M has developed eczema on the spots where ringworm used to reside, and J is beginning to do so too. We’re all using antifungal shampoo, just in case. I’m exhausted, and I hardly have the energy to give the kitten the attention he needs once my human children are in bed.

A pharmacy worth of medications is accompanied by a typed schedule with a column for each of 6 people and cats.I’ve trotted out a technique I used with newborn infants. I’ve written up our medication schedule and posted it by the meds.

I keep reminding myself that all this is nothing compared to what we went through after bringing our 33-week preemies home 6 years ago. The need to keep on top of a schedule and maintain a sanitary environment was much more critical then. I was getting way less sleep. I had far less experience. This ringworm stuff is child’s play in comparison.

When the girls were babies, I had a notebook in which I wrote down every diaper change and every feeding, since in my sleep-deprived state, I feared double feeding one baby and forgetting to feed the other. It also helped coordinate things between me and my husband. I’d take my notebook with me to visits with the pediatrician.

This ringworm thing? I don’t need a notebook to keep track.

This, too, shall pass.

What techniques have you developed to manage parenting multiples? How do they translate to the rest of your life?

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