Everything Has a Home

“Cleanliness is next to godliness” – ancient proverb

“Out of clutter, find simplicity” – Albert Einstein

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions” – Barbara Hemphill


Oh, yes. I agree – clutter is the worst. Once upon a time I was organized. Everything had a place. What a sweet, sweet time that was. Counters were clear, laundry was folded and put away, recycling was taken out, and if something wasn’t needed then off to donation box it went. The floors were clear and end tables held only lamps and maybe a coffee cup (okay, definitely a coffee cup).

Glorious days, my friends. Glorious, tidy, streamlined days.

Then we had kids and our house became inhabited by these little people and all their little people things. But I was determined to keep our home clutter-free. We bought storage containers and decorative baskets. There was a Car Basket and a Book Basket and a shelf for puzzles. For a little while this worked, but eventually the grown-ups were outnumbered and the children were expected to take on some of the cleaning responsibility, and things changed.

“Clean” became “clean-ish”. Tidy meant that stuff wasn’t laying around on the main floor, but only a brave soul would venture into other regions of the house. And closing the basement door was all that was necessary for it to be deemed “put-away”.

Standards were lowered. But not forever and not completely. The anti-clutter side of me comes out every now and then. The family knows it’s coming when I start saying things like, “this is not preschool!” and “EVERYTHING HAS A HOME PUT THINGS IN THEIR HOME”. This generally results in me being offered some “quiet time” and Bearded Husband quietly ushers the children from the home amidst whispers of “she’ll be fine, everything will be okay, just get in the van boys.”

That’s when the magic happens.

Jackets are hung up on their hooks. Bedding is folded and placed on the correct shelves. Receipts are thrown out and library books are gathered for return. The craft area gets purged and all the art supplies fit in their decorative bins. When the house is tidied, I feel calm and smiley. It’s a great feeling.

And then the family returns and this happens.

(These photograph have in no way been altered or staged)

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EVERYTHING HAS A HOME

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PUT THE THINGS IN THEIR HOME

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One day I will miss the clutter and chaos that a house full of kids brings, it’s true. But I wouldn’t mind being able to close a closet door all the way. Just once.

 

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The Talk

“Well, that’s called a scrotum and the marble-y things are actually called testicles,” I explained to one of our four sons as my husband walked by the room, gave me a thumbs up and whispered, “You’re doing a great job.”

Wait, wait, wait. How did this happen? When our fourth son was born and I officially became a “Mom of Boys”, I anticipated some things that would come with that title: wet toilet seats, potty talk, unending food preparation, burps, farts, potty talk, so much potty talk.

Years ago I knew there would some potentially uncomfortable conversations to be had, and I was mentally prepared for some chats or questions. At some point I’d fill them in on the pertinent information regarding females, but I did not anticipate that I would be the sole one giving “the talk”. And I especially did not anticipate giving it to all four sons.

I’m not saying my husband bribed them to wait to ask the really big questions until his baseball tournament last summer, but I’m not not saying it either. Or perhaps he really undersold himself and has been dropping hints for years that Mom should be the one to address all things bodily function-related? Come to think of it, I also took the lead on toilet training all four boys, including the various peeing options. I even taught the youngest how to pee against a tree. How did this happen?

Lots of moms take this role all the time and I know I am fully capable of addressing questions and explaining how babies are made. But I did not expect to do this when my husband was in the next room. Listening in. And deciding not to chime in. Oh, and here’s another interesting tidbit, as a grade five teacher he covers this in the health curriculum every year. So. Not what I expected, indeed.

How does one go about teaching the facts of life to four offspring varying in ages from four to ten? Divide and conquer. And it helps to have a book at the ready.

A prepared and organized parent would have already purchased a book for that fateful day. Alas, we took a spur-the-moment field trip to the library. The sex-ed gods showed favour on this frazzled mom and an ideal book was found. IMG_2163

That evening I told the older boys that they could read through it and then I would check in to clarify or answer any questions. This went surprisingly smooth and I fielded their inquiries like a seasoned pro. “Well, he’s not actually making a tent, sometimes, when a boy wakes up in the morning…”

The challenge came when chatting with a younger son. I was very clear that the  information he learned was for him and not his friends or classmates. “Their parents get to decide when they learn about this. You don’t decide for them.” He nodded sagely. “And this is a topic we discuss within our family, not when friends come over, got it?” Again, he nodded in agreement.

By that point I felt comfortable covering the basics. Third time was the charm – I only had to answer a few questions with “we can talk about that later” and an occasional shrug.

“Why would you even want to do that? And with your clothes off?” 

“What kind of jock strap do girls wear?”

“Wait, we came out of where?”

Educating children about puberty and sex doesn’t end in one conversation. I knew the topic would be discussed many times. The next day I heard some whispers of “ball sack” and “so hairy” and “freckles” (pretty sure they meant nipples, but I wasn’t wading back into that so soon).

I was congratulating myself on my ability to think quickly and handle that milestone effectively (and on my own). I was so preoccupied with my success that at first I thought nothing of it when I found my two youngest boys sitting together on the couch when I returned from outside. Upon closer examination I discovered the older one had taken the lead in explaining changing bodies to his younger brother, with our new book as his guide.

“Girls don’t actually have a penis, they have an angina” he was describing with barely-suppressed glee as his baby brother looked at him with a mixture of fascination and disbelief.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I said in shock, “We went over this. That message was just for you, remember?

He replied, “I know. What’s the problem? He is family.”

 

 

Hello? Can You Hear Me?

“Screens are done. Devices off. Dinner is ready,” I call into the abyss that is our living room. “Hello? HELLO? GUESS I WILL JUST EAT THIS DELICIOUS MEAL ALL BY MYSELF.”

Nothing. Not even a flinch.

“Please make sure you put your shoes in the laundry room,” I remind an audience of zero. Because there the shoes sit – in the front foyer, ready to greet any guests who drop by.

Every parent feels like their messages often fall on deaf ears, right? I’m not alone in feeling unheard and invisible, am I?

Occasionally I like to make sure that I am not a ghostly phantom that cannot be heard rather than the mom my children choose to ignore. So I test their hearing. There are several methods I like to employ:

1. Turn on any Youtube video.

2. Call my mother.

3. Open a candy wrapper.

4. Begin a conversation with my husband.

5. Use even slightly salty language.

“We’re having a movie night? Can I have a snack? What are you watching? Why are you spelling out your words?” What a relief, their hearing is just fine.

I get it kids, parents are boring. We are always giving you advice, life lessons, and reminders to clean up your junk. Why bother turning off Netflix if you can ignore your mom and get a few extra minutes? Makes sense. I did it, too. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me crazy, though.

Acknowledge that you heard me, kids. Respond. Throw an “okay” or “be right there” my way. I’d even settle for a grunt or a head nod. Or better yet, how about you just do what I ask the first time? Wouldn’t it be fun to just put your school things away instead of waiting for angry mom to arrive on the scene? It would be, trust me.

Alas, human children are not really wired that way. They have other ways of letting parents know that despite their blank stares and frozen positions on the couch, they do hear what we say. Sometimes we just have to wait for it. It’s hard to be patient and easy to give up or get frustrated. I feel that way a lot. And then that magical moment arrives. It can take on a variety of forms and often happens when we least expect it.

Recently I took three of our four boys to the movies. They were particularly chatty during the drive and I have learned to be still and let van conversations flow. They are some of the most profound conversations we’ve had. I think the topic came up after a chat about some light up shoes they had seen, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but the discussion went something like this:

Son #1: Some kids think there are Boy colours and Girl colours, but that’s just not true.

Son #2: Right? It’s so dumb to say that flowers and stuff are for girls, anybody can like what they like.

Son #1: Yeah, I like to colour with pink lots.

Son #3: It’s true, but sometimes commercials actually say, “and these ones for girls.”

Son #1: But you can buy whatever colour you want. Remember when I liked Hello Kitty so much? Some people say it’s for girls, but I liked it. I don’t anymore, but I really, really did when I was three.

Son #2: Sometimes kids at school say that pink is for girls. I don’t agree. I mean, I don’t really like pink, but that’s not because I’m a boy, I just like other colours more.

For the past ten years of raising four boys, we have tried very hard to dispel boy/girl stereotypes, particularly when it comes to toy selection and colour choices. We haven’t forced an agenda on the boys, but rather we hope we’ve coached them that they can like what they like. There is no such thing as a gender-specific colour. If they want to wear nail polish, I’ll gladly grab my vast collection and paint them any colour or pattern they wish. You’re into Hello Kitty and Transformers? Fine with me.

I quietly cheered the boys on as they discussed the ridiculous notion that we need to separate colours into categories. Yes, they have been listening.

Kids listen. They do. They might roll their eyes or seem to tune us out (they probably do tune us out). But they listen. They watch how we behave, they see how we treat others, and they do listen. We might not see immediate responses or evidence, but if we are willing to be patient, to be still, we will see it. Our messages do reach them.

But seriously now, screen time is over. 

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Please pick up your socks. Pick them up. PICK THEM UP.

Local Mom Under Scrutiny

Dear readers,

Today we feature a submission by rookie reporter, 8-year-old Moyer. He is an up-and-coming journalist with a knack for digging deep into his topics. Mr. Moyer is not afraid to tackle any subject, no matter how sensitive or inaccurate.

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In addition to being a crackerjack writer, he also does his own illustrations.

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Editor’s note: the views expressed in the above article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Tough Bananas, Jan Moyer, or most Starbucks consumers.

 

Nutcracker Bandit Strikes Fear in Family

Local mom was shaken to discover her family home had apparently been the victim of vandalism.

“I love a good mystery. Scooby-Doo, Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Sherlock, I’m a big fan of the sleuths. So I thought I would be able to solve this easily,” the mother of four said. Unfortunately, she was mistaken.

The family recently put out their Christmas decorations, including a family favourite, the nutcracker, Bob. Days later, the family was horrified to find that Nutcracker Bob’s trumpet had been broken off.

“This was certainly not an inside job. I specifically told my boys not to play with the Nutcracker and they all promised they wouldn’t,” said the devastated mom. “I don’t feel safe in my own home.”

When asked about the vandalism, the oldest son declined to comment. The youngest son, however, speculated that the family home might be haunted.

Similar incidents have happened to the family in the past. Toilet paper strewn across the floors, lights mysteriously left on, and chewed gum hidden behind furniture.

Authorities have not been called in, but the parents are documenting the recurring vandalism. For the time being, the family remains hopeful that the mystery will be solved.

 

 

 

The Future is NOW

My children, it is true that we live in an amazing time. But sometimes I ponder what the future might hold for us. What wonders could be just a few years away?

For instance, sometimes I like to imagine that in my lifetime we will have the ability to create some sort of mechanism that allows you to suspend a towel off of a bedroom floor. Maybe it will be on the back of a door, who is to say? I’ll leave that to the engineers.

Occasionally I like to dream of a time when we won’t have to eat food with our bare hands. I admit it is hard to wait, but I’m sure scientists are on the cusp of discovering the right formula to forge a device that allows us to deliver food directly from our plate to our mouth. Call me fanciful, but I think that could happen any day now.

If you’re like me, you might be wishing for an appliance of some sort that washes dishes for you. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all we have to do is load the dirty dishes into it and *poof* all the hard work is done? The dishes would come out clean with minimal effort from us. Sounds a bit far-fetched, but so did space travel, didn’t it?

So close.
So close.

When a drink spills on the floor it is such a hassle. You have to walk around it until it eventually dries up. But I have faith that one day there will be an absorbent material that can swipe up that mess in one go. I believe we have the technology, it just hasn’t been maximized yet.

If they can make a phone that allows you to hold the world’s knowledge in the palm of your hand, surely we aren’t far away from an apparatus that will pick up carpet debris with a suction action? And why stop at carpet? Perhaps this miracle-of-tomorrow will also be able to suck popcorn and dried gum from between couch cushions? Heady times ahead. Heady times, indeed.

I envy you kids, what a time to be alive.

That’s Okay

Mission Impossible theme plays. You sense the tension mounting. It’s only a matter of time. This thing is going to blow. Take cover!

Okay.200-1

Okay? That’s it? This house is about to self-destruct in an epic way and you come back with “OKAY”?

Okay.

What does that even mean? Aren’t you going to intervene? DO SOMETHING!

Okay.

There you go again, just calmly sitting there. We want to see some action. Panic. Even a raised heart rate. GIVE US SOME REACTION, WOMAN.

Okay.

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It has taken me years to get to this point, and I sometimes still fall into the snare that those little tyrants set, trying to pull me into the dark abyss that is “Their Problem”. I am mostly certain that this technique evolved out of inertia, nay laziness, but it works. Trust me.

He took more chips than me.200-2

Okay.

He won’t pass the grapes.

Okay.

He called me a dummy.

Okay.

She’s breathing on me.

Okay.

It’s my turn to choose a show/use the iPad/sit in the front/

Okay.200

He didn’t take the one he touched.

Okay.

This mustard is too spicy.

Okay.

He pointed at me.

Okay.

He picked his nose.

Okay (but wash your hands, that’s gross).

He peed on the floor.

Okay. Wait, what? (there are some exceptions).

For added effect, just shrug without making eye contact. You’ll foster more resiliency, problem-solving skills in your children, and your wine budget line will decrease significantly. It’s science.

Okay?

Okay.

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*This technique also works with adults, but with varying results. More testing is needed.