Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cleaning Machine

Collecting one's thoughts at a public terminal in the library is, it turns out, even more challenging than collecting them at home with children screaming for supper. Probably just a matter of custom, though.

The house has been on the market for nearly a week now. I am gratified to discover that I can, in fact, keep a house in spotless condition, and even more gratified to discover that it doesn't do a thing for me and thus I can blissfully discontinue it as soon as we have a buyer.

It's not that I'm lazy or disorganized. The work is fine and I know exactly what needs to be done. I just don't see the point. You wash all the windows and two days later they are spotty again. You move the furniture to paint and wax and move it back and ding the paint and scratch the wax. In short, a house can take exactly as much of your time as you allow it to take. And under ordinary circumstances, it certainly shouldn't take this much of mine. Although I have to admit that always getting up to a clean kitchen is a nicety that should not be neglected when possible.

But a house that is constantly tidy is, to my mind, a bit dull. The point of cleaning up is to have some grand event and then do something else. Indeed, one reason why I can keep it clean so easily now is that there is nothing else for me to do. The books are packed away. The computer is gone. I don't have a car. Nothing to do all day--between diapers and meals--but clean, clean, clean. This is turning me into the sort of obsessive-compulsive woman who greets her guests with newspapers so they won't walk on the floor. I had real difficulty yesterday walking to the park and not stopping to pull all the weeds to the sidewalk on the way.

Fortunately I know this level of obsession is normal for me with any new project and will cease as soon as the impetus does, if not a bit sooner. So far we've had a showing or open house or both nearly every day except today. The next two days already have one each booked. I've become an expert at dismantling the babies' beds and stashing them in the closet so people will notice the size of the room and not try to count up how many children we keep in it.

Meanwhile, the children go about their business with some relief that the really intensive stage of both parents wielding paintbrushes to all hours of the night is over. The babies have somehow transformed from taking a few experimental steps to staggering all over the house, bouncing off the walls to turn like novice roller skaters. With their push toys and bikes banished to the basement, they resort to racing the few remaining chairs across the echoing living room.

The older ducklings like to play selling houses and buying houses and building houses out of Duplos. We've even done a few days of school when things seemed a bit dull during the babies' nap. They still think it's a great treat and beg for it, and it remains a great treat as long as I don't plan too hard. This week, on the spur of the moment, we've learned numbers that add to five, started Spanish, and started D2 on actual reading lessons (which D1 insisted on being included in, even though she had her own). I can see my decision to keep them together for school, at least initially, is the right one; otherwise I would simply have to repeat both sets of lessons twice, as neither can bear for the slightest variation from what the other does. Also I don't know why a sketch drawn on the spur of the moment of how A Fat Cat Sat On a Mat is so much more enticing than a book with it all laid out years in advance, but it is.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nearly There (We Hope)

Posting may be spotty for a bit as we transition computers and set the house up to look like it is inhabited by lemon-eating monks. Of course, posting has been spotty already, so you probably won't notice.

We started out with considerable enthusiasm and little skill, and we are ending with a lot less enthusiasm and only slightly more skill. We may live in an apartment the rest of our lives.

The trouble with large families that no one mentions is specialization. When you have many different people with many different aptitudes under one roof, jobs naturally tend to gravitate to those most able. Since both DOB and I were apparently off reading when the handyman genes were handed out, our current family is devoid of both gifts and training in these areas. (We watch anxiously for possible developments in the twins; the two oldest are probably already a lost cause.) Actually DOB says that he knows what to do, the stuff just refuses to cooperate, whereas I am relatively physically adept but have no clue what I am doing.

I thought that caulking the tub would be easy--it's just like icing a cake, right? Except the tube is a lot bigger and requires more hand strength. And--this is very important--you can't eat your mistakes. You have to scrape them up and start over.

So we scrub and paint and drop into bed long past our bedtime, since the only time we can do most work is when the babies are already in bed. Our first showing is tomorrow at 2. The attorney assures us the title will be straightened out in time. Life moves on. Pretty fast, sometimes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Random List of Random Lists

Things D4 has used to help him walk:
wastepaper basket
vacuum cleaner (the real thing, not the toy)
stock pot
folding table
his own shirt

Things we have painted:
Front porch
Back deck
Basement floor

Things we still need to paint:
Basement floor
Kitchen, but we won't

Things that don't help progress:
Stomach viruses
Toddlers in general

Places that are mostly clean:
Front Yard

Places that are worse than ever:
Living room

Furniture left in the house:
kitchen table
six chairs
small desk
small table
bookcase, but only until tomorrow

Friday, August 07, 2009

On the Impermanence of Human Things

If the women don't find you handy, they should at least find that you have the number of a handyman. Because sometimes Google lets you down.

One of the must-do repairs on the house is the front porch, where the cement was chipping and the paint needed redone. We hired out the cement repair, but when the cement fellow quoted us $350 to paint the thing, we thought we could do it ourselves.

Until I started reading up on how to paint a cement porch. Procedures described on official-looking sites involved days of work, hundreds of dollars in supplies, and hazardous chemicals galore. Paying to have it done was starting to look more appealing.

I called a friend who fixes things. And he said: Sure you could do all that if you wanted it to last for eons. But no one really does. Scrape off the loose chips and paint two coats. It won't last as long, but when you're not the one who has to replace it in three years, what difference does it make?

This means we're doing our part to contribute to the general decline in workmanship and the increasing shoddiness of things. In fact, we're probably doing exactly what the guy before us did, which is why it started chipping again so soon. It feels a bit shameful, but what sense is there in spending the next two weeks and hundreds of extra dollars to make a paint job that will last to the end of time on behalf of a person who won't pay us a penny extra for doing it right?

So the world continues to decline.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Everything Must Go!

After giving up on the yard sale we decided to try Craig's List instead. We sold all the big stuff for more than we were asking at the yard sale, so perhaps that made up for all the stuff that just went to the thrift store. The table and chairs were stuck out in the rain and looked terrible, so I tried putting them on Freecycle. A couple of people inquired, but no one came by. After a while, out came the sun and dried up all the rain and the dining room set didn't look so bad anymore. We put it on Craig's List for $30 and had to fend off the deluge of inquiries.

I think the moral of that story is that people think that free stuff is junk, but cheap stuff is a bargain.

With all the big stuff gone, we now must deal with the little stuff that is left, and deal with it in a house nearly bereft of surfaces out of reach of the twins. It goes, but slowly. Today I cleaned out the vitamin and candy cupboard. (We keep them together, perhaps in hopes of them neutralizing each other.) By clearing out the cupboards I should have room to put the things that now live on top of the refrigerator. Everything has to move around to somewhere else, where something else is in the way, or be sorted or given back to someone or something. So everywhere is getting cleaner, but nowhere is clean.

There are two basic types of housekeeping activities: tidying and cleaning. These two are not only not the same, they are antithetical. I'm a tidier. Give me a messy room and permission to hide, and I can have it looking . . . unobjectionable . . . in a matter of minutes. Sooner or later, though, all those hiding places come back to bite you. Hence, one must clean, and that makes a terrible mess.

It's a motivator for getting rid of things. Everything that goes out the front door is something I never have to pick up again.

Things seem to be moving agonizingly slowly. This is already the longest we've ever spent on moving. Of course, in all our previous moves, we've just dumped stuff in the nearest boxes and figured it would all turn up eventually. When and if we ever do get the house sold (we're STILL trying to figure out what is going on with that title issue, but the world seems full of incompetent people right now), actually moving is going to be a minor task in comparison.