Tag Archives: parenting

A Foolproof Method for De-Cluttering Your Home


It may surprise you to learn that my house is often filled with clutter.

Yes, yes, hard to believe, but it’s true. With two kids, a dog, an indeterminate amount of cats (who seem to wink in and out of existence like quantum particles) and then, y’know, me, things don’t always end up where they belong. A place for everything, they say, and everything in its place.

Not in this house. In this house it’s more like A place for everything, but sometimes just for today I’m really tired so that thing will just go over there with those things, and I know that isn’t where it really goes but bollocksed if I can drag myself down the stairs and back up the stairs again after to put it in its real place.

Things, in other words, pile up.

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Clutter. Pictured: Nine books, two notebooks, a couple pairs of headphones, a pack of highlighters, a pair of socks for some reason, my keys, a tape measure from a fix-it project I worked on last week I think, a single glove leftover from winter (it’s July), a speaker I’ll be taking to school at the end of the month (so why would I move it until then), other sundries. Bonus: next to all of this, on the floor, my daughter’s shoe. You are dealing with a clutter expert.

But never fear. I have for you today a simple, step-by-step process for dealing with the clutter in your own home; a process which has worked for me more times than I can count and is guaranteed to produce results. (Just maybe not the results you expected or wanted.)

  1. Notice clutter.
  2. Summon the will to care and then to do something about it. (Don’t be discouraged if this step takes a day or four.)
  3. Consider the proper place for the clutter, and measure the convenience of that place against your willpower from step #2.
    1. If you don’t know the proper place, ask your wife.
    2. If she’s not there, or if she sasses you for not knowing, take a nap and start over.
  4. Okay, let’s be serious. If you start putting things away now, you’re going to feel silly if you don’t clean the entire room, and since nobody has time for that, let’s just tidy up the clutter a bit. Push it to an unobtrusive corner of the table. Tuck it into a corner. Hide it under your sleeping dog’s backside. Be creative!
    1. Or, for bonus points, make the clutter more intrusive to encourage your future self to clean up the clutter sooner. Moving a stack of junk into the hallway so that it must be looked at / stepped around several times an hour is effective. As is putting whatever’s in the way on the kitchen counter so that you can’t cook until it’s dealt with also works.
  5. Focus all your mental energy into ignoring the clutter. Breathe deeply. Feel the energy of the universe flowing through you. Meditate on what it would be like to be a feather tossed on the breeze. Feathers can’t clean up clutter, and neither should you have to.
  6. Become overwhelmed and slowly panic inside, but continue not to do anything about it. You really need that “spiders crawling inside your skin” feeling for the next step.
  7. Wait for the weekend (which is what you were always going to do anyway) and clean the entire room.
    1. As you’re cleaning the first room, you may find yourself cluttering up a second room. Be careful not to start the cycle over again. Leaving the lights off as you clean can be particularly helpful for this.
  8. Relax in your newly uncluttered room.
  9. If you live alone — congrats, you’re done! You might not enter the cycle again for months. If you are married, you might get a week or so. Pets, a few days. If you have kids, expect to begin the cycle again within an hour.

This post brought to you by me stubbing my toe three times on a crate I put in the hallway so that future me would put it away properly at some undetermined time in the future.

It has since been properly put away and replaced with a fake potted plant.

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I Am Not The Target Audience


We were watching The Little Mermaid today with my youngest (she’s four, now, and has a serious thing for mermenaids, as she calls them — which is, actually, maybe, the best possible version of a non-gendered title for the things?).

Watching it as an adult is not at all like watching it as a kid. It’s hard to imagine a less sympathetic protagonist — literally all she does is run around behind her (single) father’s back and disobey his orders and requests (all of which are not only reasonable, but pretty darn sensible at that).

  • She spends her days stalking and obsessing over humans — amassing a room full of their junk. This is creepy.
  • She blows off a major family (and community!) event — “the pinnacle of [Sebastian’s] career” — because she “forgot”. (By the way, and this is particularly irksoe as a guy who knows a thing or two about performances myself, how in the hockeysticks did that performance even begin when they didn’t know where Ariel was? It ain’t like she told somebody “brb, gotta fix my seashells, I’ll make my cue” — they just straight started the show and then were SHOCKED when she wasn’t there. Nonsense!)
  • She runs away from home to make a deal with basically a drug dealer, essentially signing her life over in exchange for a chance at love. Crikey.
  • She busts up a wedding with the help of her band of ragamuffins. (Okay, it was a sham wedding but still.)
  • She leaves her father and family behind to marry a guy who was basically ready to propose after just two or three days (Disney seems to have a fixation with this happening actually)

The only way she works as a protag for me these days is if you accept that the entire plot of the piece is about her naivete — but then that doesn’t work either because she doesn’t learn to not be naive in the end. Quite the contrary — daddy swoops in at the end and fixes everything, giving her exactly what she wanted without for a moment suggesting she, I dunno, maybe think about her actions and their consequences for half a second?

Frustrating. I guess I shouldn’t be watching kids’ movies so closely.

Meanwhile, Sprout the first was in and out of the room, too. Since questions literally come out of his mouth ten-to-one with actual statements, I take great pleasure in messing with him when I can, and watching him mull over whether I’m telling the truth.

“Daddy, what’s that mermaid’s name?”

Fishbooty.

“Daddy, what’s the crab’s name?”

Dippin’ Sauce.

“Daddy, are mermaids real?”

Probably not.

“Are they just rare?”

Very rare.

“How rare?”

Rarer than unicorns.

“Are unicorns real?”

Probably not.

“Dad, what does ‘probably’ mean?”

Just watch the movie.

Problem is, the more he thinks, the more questions he asks. Which, I’ll grant, is a good thing. But an exhausting one.


Kids with Guns


We were at a playground with the kids today. Beautiful day, tons of families out enjoying the sun.

And there was a kid — one single kid — running around with a toy gun. Pointing it at the other kids. “BANG BANG BANG!”

Pointing it at my six-year-old son. “BANG YOU’RE DEAD.”

At my three-year-old daughter. “BANG BANG HAHA KILLED YOU.”

At me. “BANG BANG DIE!”

And I’m looking around like, this is fine, I guess? Kid’s parents are (obviously) nowhere in sight. Nobody’s stopping him or telling him to, you know, maybe not make so much with the aggression and the pretending to shoot people at random.

I mean, how does any parent allow their kid to run around in a public place with anything that even slightly resembles a weapon in this day and age? In the last five days of class, the county I teach in (the COUNTY, to say nothing of the STATE) has had three students arrested for threats of gun violence. THREE! In a week!

Sure, they’re just playing.

Sure, boys will be boys.

But our kids keep dying, and everybody’s scared to death. My students this week asked me (and they were only half joking) if I would take a bullet for them. When the fire alarms went off on Monday, thirty pairs of eyes flashed to me in terror: is it real? or is it a ploy to get us outside?

And here comes this eight-year-old, on a playground swarming with kids, running from person to person going BANG BANG YOU’RE DEAD, over and over and over again.

I don’t understand how any parent who’s paying the slightest bit of attention to the world around them can let that happen. How they can let their kid out the front door to play in the yard with anything remotely like a gun. Let alone putting their kid in the car and allowing them to take the toy gun into a crowd.

I get it, I do. Our country is totally ass-over-elbows when it comes to guns. We love them and we’re terrified of them; they are the source of and the solution to all our problems; hell, some people are getting married with them now.

This is fine, I guess.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.


Why I Cry at Kids’ Movies


I was watching the latest episode of This is Us with my wife the other night (why I continue to watch this show is beyond me; it’s genetically designed to pull at its viewers’ heartstrings at the expense of anything like a compelling narrative). And as Mandy Moore sat there munching on a candy bar as she received the news her husband had died, I glanced over at my wife. Tears streamed silently down her face, her brow knit up like a Christmas scarf your mother made when you were six. And I turned back to the show and just watched, not crying. Not that I felt nothing, but I wasn’t impacted so deeply by what I was seeing.

Maybe it’s because I know the show’s goal, like the Greek tragedies of old, is to get under my skin and tap into the emotions I’m not supposed to express in my walking-around life. The entire raison d’etre for This is Us is to make its viewers bust a tear every week, to give us a blubbering, tear-streaked catharsis. I know that, and I have feelings about that goal (I think it’s cheap, but more on that another day), and my viewing of the show is as a result inescapably cynical.

It made me think: what was the last movie I really cried at? Adult movies (yeah, what I meant there was movies for grown-ups) don’t really do it to me anymore. My wife swears I cried the first time she made me watch The Notebook, but I remember it differently. And I can still get a little misty towards the end of Titanic, a movie about which I’m as cynical as it comes.

But no; what makes me cry these days are kids’ movies.

bingbong

Pretty sure this purple jerk Disney/Pixar cooked up is responsible for more adult tears than an ocean full of Titanics.

Show me The Lion King and I will weep manly tears as Simba noses at Mufasa’s body, trying in vain to wake him up. Inside Out gets me every time when Bing Bong throws himself off the wagon so that Joy can escape the black hole of memory. Shoot, I cried the first time I saw Frozen when Anna sacrificed herself to save a weeping Elsa, and Elsa threw her arms around her sister’s frozen statue. Don’t even get me started on A Dog’s Purpose. I had to leave the room. (I haven’t seen Up. I don’t plan to. I’ve heard stories.)

They didn’t always do this to me. In fact, I would have laughed at a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies, before I became a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies. (Actually, that’s not true. I still totally laugh at myself for crying at kids’ movies.)

And I think I know why I cry at kids’ movies.

It’s because I’m a parent now. And being a parent changes your perspective.

Time was when I could watch a kids’ movie and just, y’know, watch it. As a movie. Here’s a protagonist, here are their struggles, here’s how they deal with them. Strife happens, as strife happens to all, but a resolution is reached. Bing bang boom, kids’ movie over, no tears.

Now, no longer. Now, a kids’ movie comes on and I can’t help viewing it as a parent. Not in that is-this-thing-appropriate-for-my-kid-to-watch-or-should-I-be-calling-my-congressman-about-it kind of way. Rather, I watch it, and either subconsciously (or other times, entirely deliberately) project my kid onto it.

The Lion King: I’m not crying because Mufasa has died. I’m crying because Simba’s father has died, because the center of Simba’s world is gone, and now Simba has to navigate the world without his role model and mentor. And it hits me. WHAM. What would it be like for my kid if he had to go through life without me?

Inside Out: I’m not crying because Bing Bong disappears forever. I’m crying because something that makes Riley young and adorable and sweet just kind of fades out, never to be recovered. Not only does Bing Bong die (and man it’s hard to take ANY sort of post about anything serious seriously [yeah, that’s grammatically correct] when you’re repeatedly typing out “Bing Bong”), he gives himself up knowing full well what it means: that a little part of Riley’s imagination dies with him. WHAM. What will my kid become when she stops obsessing over Minnie Mouse and My Little Ponies?

Frozen: I’m not crying because Anna dies for her sister. I’m crying because for a heartbreaking moment, Elsa knows that she has lost her other half, the sister who’s been her only family for most of her life. WHAM. What will my kids be to each other when my wife and I are gone?

And there’s only so much of this WHAMming that a parent can take before we start to leak from the eyes at the merest hint of strife befalling our kids — or the kids we subconsciously project onto the kids in these movies.

My daughter’s latest obsession is the My Little Pony movie. It’s hard to live in our house for more than a few days and not come away quoting the flavor-of-the-month they’re watching (and the list is long: Cars, Wreck-it Ralph, Curious George, Boss Baby, Finding Dory, The Little Mermaid, Ice Age, Moana, Lego Batman, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, stop judging me this list is not exhaustive), but I’m managing it so far with this one. Not only because something in my soul still manages to HATE My Little Pony since the days when my sisters loved it, but mostly because I don’t want to have to explain to my wife why a handful of animated magical horses have moved me to tears when a perfectly good show for grown-ups doesn’t.

But the day is not far off.

I only hope I’m already chopping onions when I inadvertently catch the emotional moment.


No Mo’ Snow


After three unexpected snow days last week, we’re back to the grind for a full work week this week. As has been pointed out by many of my teaching colleagues here in the environs outside Atlanta, the last full week of school we had was in November.

The lack of routine was definitely evident getting the kids out the door this morning. Sprout #1 spent the last thirty-six hours insisting that school still might get canceled today, and Sprout #2 threw a fit that lasted from a few minutes after she was awake until the moment I pulled into the daycare parking lot, at which point she changed her tune entirely and became a pitiful, clingy mess. And when I took my leave the tantrum started up again.

And friends and family wonder why my wife and I are such sticklers about getting these two little monsters to bed on time every night, even on weekends and vacations. It’s for the same reason that I spent the entire evening last night, from two on until I fell asleep, in a scowling, muttering, slamming-the-kitchen-cabinets and passive-aggressively-dragging-my-feet sulk. Routines matter! When kids — well, ANYBODY — know what to expect, they’re almost infinitely more likely to go along with it. And even if they don’t go along with it, they’re likely to protest less. And even if the plan changes, well just being prepared for the original plan leaves them somehow better equipped to deal with the adjustments.

Needless to say, when, following a three-day weekend, you go back to school for a single day and then get three surprise days off, followed by another weekend, your routine might as well have never existed in the first place.

I hope Mother Nature keeps this in mind the next time she brews up snow for the South. We are seriously not equipped for it.

Still, I got seven hundred words written today. So there’s that.


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