Figuring Out How to Keep Kids Rooms Clean (Gratitude – Day Four)

Gratitude, Day Four aka figuring out how to keep the kids' rooms clean. Why today? Because today we "fell back" with Daylight Savings. And we all know that on a day that we have an entire extra hour with our tiny humans (some of us the day after trick or treating, thanks to Sandy) gratitude is not the first word many of us are using.

how to keep kids rooms cleanSo I took the extra hour and took out every single toy my kids own and put in in the middle of their bedroom floors. They were in heaven, and it never occurred to them that I was also working toward accomplishing the ever-present "decluttering your life" goal by weeding out the toys as they played. With two tiny humans, 2 and 4, it seems like figuring out how to keep the kids' rooms clean is a lofty goal. But here are the things I know work for our family of four:

  • Everything In Its Place: Everything has to have a home. Even better if everything has a label, so the kids know where everything goes. Ditto for sitters, grandparents, Dad, etc.
  • Storage, Storage and More Storage: While a toy box is a quick and easy fix, it is disorganized and our toys have a way of getting lost and broken in toy boxes. I much prefer bookcase-style cubes with fabric boxes in them. They are cheap, easy to assemble, durable and replaceable.
  • One Thing At A Time: My kids are much better behaved when they are focused on one activity at a time. On the rare occasion I let them take out multiple things (today), they get overwhelmed and quickly abandon the clutter for another area of the house, trailing toys behind them as they go. To ensure that my tiny humans comply with the "one thing at a time" rule, they each have childproof locks on the closets where their toys are kept. That way they have to clean up what they were playing with before I open the closet to take something else out.
  • Set Expiration Dates: I don't have a schedule for when I go through the kids toys. Mostly I do what I did today – get bored or overwhelmed to the point where I just can't stand it anymore and tackle it. But at least twice a year – usually with the kids input – we do go through everything they own and either keep it, donate it, sell it or toss it. I would like to do it more frequently, but life gets away from me sometimes.

I know that decluttering your life is not a goal you achieve as much as it is a constant state of upkeep. But the above tips, when I stick to them, seem to be the key to how to keep my kids' rooms clean.

So after a loooong day (it feels like we fell back at least two or three hours, not just one) I am grateful to have had the opportunity and energy to tackle the kids rooms. Mostly I am grateful that it is done. And that when I finally wrestle them into bed tonight I expect they will be so tired from staying up an extra hour after playing with every single toy they own, it will be one of the easiest bedtimes in recent history. I am grateful for that, too.

I Can’t Breathe

I have not been able to breathe right this week. I, like many other millions of people, heard the story about Taylor Swift performing a song for Stand Up 2 Cancer. The song is inspired by a little boy and his mom, the boy having lost his battle with childhood cancer.

When I became a mom, I wasn't prepared for the way things would start to hit me. Things that seemed cruel or unfair before now make me feel like I have been kicked in the stomach. I take on other people's pain because of the universal bond of motherhood – that child could be my child; that mother's pain could be mine. The world looks – to borrow a vocab word from Momastery – awfully brutiful (brutal/beautiful). All. The. Time.

So I didn't listen to the song – Ronan – right away. I was avoiding it. But then I was stopped in traffic, and I clicked this link someone posted on Facebook and it took me to Ronan's mom's blog. I began to read, then I began to cry. The light changed; I had to pull over in a parking lot. I sat, and I sobbed, and I couldn't breathe.

Her pain – this complete stranger's pain – hit me so incredibly hard. I have been walking around carrying this pain, this fear, and this worry ever since. And I can't breathe right. This morning I watched the video of Taylor Swift singing the song, which sucked me into an hour-long rabbit hole of googling and reading Rockstar Ronan. I donated money to the family's foundation hoping it would fill this hole and help me breathe. I included a note to the family because it felt like something needed saying.

But it isn't right. And there is very little I can do. There are a lot of things us moms do to keep our babies safe but against this we have no defense. It is cruel and it is random and it is just so unfair.

So I wrote a check, and I wrote a note, and now I will write this post to remind myself of something important. Every moment I have with my kids – who drive me crazy and who I blame my wine-drinking hobby on – is precious. I am going to try so, so, so hard to remember that on the very worst days.

Because on those very worst days, the days where I am at the end of my rope, crying for a vacation, I am selfish. Because somewhere else in the world, there is a mom wishing for one more day – even a bad day, filled with tantrums and whining and potty training accidents – with her child who she will never see again.

On the worst days, I am going to try to breathe, remember this mom and her lost son, and do a better job. Hug them a little tighter. Count to 10 or 20 or 1000 – however long it takes – instead of yelling at them. I will pull them close and just be grateful for the bad days because it could ALWAYS be so much worse.

Hoping for the Best –

There is this saying, "Hope for the best, expect the worst," which I have always found annoying and pessimistic. Perhaps it is because I am what my husband calls "overambitious" – not with everything I undertake, only with things that involve our children and "outings."

He will look at me as I am on my way out the door, off for my latest "adventure" with our children, and just kind of smirk. Like, "Really? You think this will go well for you? Good luck!" And these are not overly ambitious adventures. I am talking about going to the mall. Or the grocery store. Or the Children's Museum.

And it is not that my husband is an asshole – sadly, he is often correct, which I am reminded of a few hours later when I return home. It looks a little like this:

Me: "NEVER again. Do you know what YOUR CHILDREN DID? Are you aware of how they behave in public? Horrible. It was horrible. They were kicking (each other) and screaming (mostly at me) and people were STARING.

Him: "Where are they now?"

Me: "WHAT? WHO? Oh, THEM? They're in the car, in the garage. I ran in to pee by myself before I get them."

Him: (Trying – failing – to suppress a self-righteous "I told you so" smirk) "I see. I'll grab them."

Here's the thing. I get these ideas in my head of the things I *should* be doing with the children. Like taking them out and teaching them how to behave in public. I feel pressured by Facebook frenemies and their annoying pictures of their perfectly well-behaved children; by mommy friends who make their own organic Play-Doh; by mommy bloggers who seem to have it a lot more together than I do.

I don't want my kids to feel like they came up short in the parent lottery because I am not the kind of mom who buys Moon Sand (too much cleanup) or bakes with them (I prefer booger-less baked goods, athankyouverymuch) or smiles and says "it's okay, love" no matter what they have gotten into (anyone who knows me know that I can be shrill – okay, I yell). And one thing I got from my own parents was that there are a lot of things you can do with kids to make up for the other stuff. So I keep trying, dragging them out into the world, and failing miserably.

But maybe I am not, in fact, failing miserably. Maybe I need to readjust my expectations – hope for the best and expect the worst. That way, the day we make it through the checkout line without temper tantrums and pitying looks, it will feel like a tremendous success. And there are days where I am reminded of a different perspective when T says to me, "Mumma, this was a really fun day." He doesn't remember that I yelled, or he screamed, or A threw a tantrum when it was time to leave. He remembers only that we did.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Car-Carts

I have two kids under the age of four. From time to time – most often fueled by a fear of what may happen if we don't get out of our pajamas and our house – I take them both grocery shopping with me. Yesterday was one of those lucky days. And it went a little something like this:

T: Ooooh Mumma, I want to ride in the car cart. (For those of you who don't have these – and I'm not sure who you are because if we have them in Maine you must have them where you are – they are these horrific kid cars attached to the front of shopping carts. People put children in them and then the small people are completely obscured from parental view. If you aren't careful, your kid could likely climb out in produce and you might not notice until you get to dairy. But I digress…)
A: Ride! Car! RIIIIIDDDDEEEEE in CARRRRRRRRR!

Me: Internal struggle while I weigh the pros (quiet, happy, seemingly well-behaved children) with the cons (germs, e coli, germs, the fact that one or both of them are likely to lick some part of the car cart or their hands or eat food off of it). I relent. And because we were in the parking lot when we spotted the vehicle in question, I couldn't even do a quick wipe with those cart sanitizer wipes. Which might be fine, because I'm pretty sure there is enough alcohol in those wipes to intoxicate my children from the aforementioned licking, eating and finger sucking.

Anyway, the trip through the grocery store went (mostly) smoothly. T: definitely "rested" his cookie on the seat of the car cart then ate it; ditto for A with a piece of cheese. So gross, but once you commit to the car cart you just kind of have to go with it and bathe them in baby wipes once they return to their carseats.

Segue to dinner time. T is wandering around the house mumbling "Mumma, it's so cold in here." Considering that he usually strips down to his Captain America underpants the second we walk in the door, I wasn't overly alarmed. Until I noticed that, for once, he was fully clothed. And apparently freezing, in spite of the flaming red cheeks that he was also sporting.

A little less than 24 hours – and a sleepless, very feverish night where I compulsively googled "meningitis symptoms" and "supermarket shopping carts causing toddler death" – later I can confirm that he has a nasty bug, most likely the flu. Which I am blaming entirely on the car cart.

I Resolve…

In 2011, approximately 463,291 mommies made the resolution to start a blog of some kind – blogging about their kids or kid-related topics. Of those over 400K, 39% actually followed through, and of that 39% approximately .009% are still writing today.

I totally made that up. I have no idea if any of that is true, but it makes me feel better to fabricate random statistics that support the hope that I am not the only person who has been saying "I should write a blog" and not following through for…um…four years now.

It is easy to make excuses for why I do not have time, but let's be honest – I watched two hours of The Jersey Shore the other night that I will never get back. I could have been doing something slightly more productive, like blogging. (Or at least blogging on the iPad during commercial breaks.)

So instead of resolving to become the next best mommy blogger out there, I resolve to do better than I did last year. And since I only wrote one – that's right, ONE – post I am already halfway done with my resolution.

Happy 2012!