Tulips, take 2

As I mentioned last year, I have been looking forward to this year’s outing to Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival! We found time to go on a Wednesday afternoon to avoid the big crowds. The tulips were at their peak, the sun was out–it was a gorgeous day to see some gorgeous flowers.

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Mt Hood in the distance!

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This year’s trip was much different than last year’s, for several reasons. First and foremost, we no longer had such a strict nap/feeding schedule to adhere to! Ever since the babies transitioned to one nap, we have the whole afternoon available for outings.

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A difference that is almost just as important–mobility! After last year, we knew the ground would be uneven and therefore to forget the stroller. And so we brought the Ergos, but not surprisingly, the dudes definitely wanted to explore!

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In fact, Malcolm explored right into a big fat mud puddle. And we don’t have spare clothes in the diaper bag. Oops.

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I’d been wanting to get a new version of this photo: DSC_2481-1

And we sort of did:  DSC_9895-1_WEB (2)

 

Around this point, they noticed the giant viewing staircases and they desperately wanted to climb them. It was also getting late, so we needed to leave and get dinner (we can all eat at restaurants together!), which meant it was time to get a family photo. (And really, another family photo at the tulips was one of my main goals for going at all, so no matter what, I was gonna make it happen!) I had to go get and set up the tripod and set the camera timer (because of COURSE I realized that I lost my remote when we were about to leave!). So it was pretty much the worst time to take a picture.

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Heh. Definitely not the best photos, but they sure are real! 🙂

They were way too squirrelly for us to try for individual parent + baby photos, or to try another clone shot behind the tulip cutout thing. And since each of us had to watch and chase after a toddler, I only grabbed a few flower shots, which was a little disappointing. But hey, the tulips will still be there another time. And maybe next year, it will be a little easier to wrangle two two-year-olds? (Haha, yeah right!)

How We Keep Our House Clean

Hang on a sec, let me finish laughing.

Hahahahaha. “Clean.” Hahahahaha. That’s hilarious.

We are kind of slobs. Wait, that doesn’t sound right; we aren’t dirty or living in filth or anything. We just get lazy about things like vacuuming and dusting. It’s not a priority for us. And I’m hoping that we’re not the only ones. 🙂

But here’s what we do to keep a semblance of clean…ish.

1. After the babies were born, I kept noticing that the upstairs bathroom counter was in need of cleaning. But the cleaning stuff was all downstairs. I would think briefly about going to get it, but almost immediately dismiss the idea. And then by the time I got back downstairs, the idea about cleaning stuff had gone clear out of my little head. Partly due to baby-fog, no doubt, but also because I’m just forgetful.

But one day I finally realized that I needed to bring the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak. I got a spray bottle and poured in some all-purpose cleaner from the bottle downstairs. I grabbed another roll of paper towels, and set both of those to live on the back of the toilet. So all the cleaning stuff is RIGHT THERE, making it no excuses and really fast and easy. (I now wonder if this is just What Adults Do and I never knew?) And now I’m pretty good at seeing when the counter is starting to look a little icky, and taking the sixty seconds to wipe everything down. I do that a little more than once a week.

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2. I can handle things like dust, because it’s small and it doesn’t get in my way. And I make a lot of piles of things, which then can become “invisible.” But if there’s enough clutter in the way of things, I get all hand-flappy and just can’t take it.

When we rearranged the living room, we had a big empty space for baby stuff. (We call it the Baby Carnival, because originally there were several “stations” of baby activities to rotate through.) And when we put the babies to bed upstairs, all the stuff was…still everywhere. I hated it and it felt suffocating. So we started piling things/boxing things/moving things around so it wasn’t everywhere.

Our system now is great. Every night after baby bedtime, we put away the baby carnival: We have a bin where all the books go. We have a bin for small toys (stacking cups, rattles, that kind of thing) and a bin for bigger toys (the bubble mower, the clacker walker toy, the musical drums). There are two smaller bins for the two kinds of blocks. So everything gets thrown (sometimes literally) back into a bin or container during the bedtime routine or right after the babies go up to bed. The exersaucer moves out of the way, the foam mats moves off to the side, the baby corral gets folded up.

All of this takes maybe five minutes, and we both work on it together. It feels SO much better. It’s like a physical demarcation between baby/family time, and grown-up/relaxing time. I swear, I take a nice happy sigh every time, because the floor is CLEAR and the clutter is out of sight! Or at least off the floor. (Well, that particular clutter, anyway.)

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It all gets set out again later at night to be ready for the morning, so one might argue that it’s a bit pointless to put it away for a few hours. But it really does make such a difference to see a clear floor, if only for a bit.

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3. We finally made ourselves a chore chart. Like we’re little kids who need a sticker or something. We listed out all the chores that need to be done in each room/area of the house each week, though some we specified bi-weekly or monthly. (Note that this does not include extremist shit like wipe down baseboards and other craziness.) There is a column for each week, to put checkmarks when the chore is completed. Now….the most we’ve ever done is probably 90% of the weekly list. And…that is not the norm. Did I mention that we’re kind of lazy?

However, I do like having: a) a visual reminder of what needs to be done and b) the satisfaction of checking off an item. The list has definitely encouraged a lot more to be done than would have done otherwise. Plus it helps equalize the work.

We (well, really “I”) have definitely gotten better with the frequency of things like sweeping the kitchen, though vacuuming is still not done very often. (But I can say that when we FINALLY got a grown-up vacuum, it made a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. It’s a Shark from Costco and it pulls up so much! It’s very satisfying (if a little gross)!)

When we lived in NYC, we were better about doing chores more regularly and more purposely–we would designate a day/timeframe to do the cleaning, and we would both work on it at the same time. However, now there are two more small people in the house with us, and it’s not at all easy to do most cleaning with babies around–they try to chew on the broom, they were afraid of the vacuum cleaner for a long time, etc. So the cleaning has to happen either after baby bedtime, or one person cleans while the other supervises babies. But our “free” time sans babies is so short, and that there are much better things to do during that time, such as eat dinner, take a shower, watch tv and read the internet.

So now things are a little (okay, a lot) more sporadic. We’ll get better again, eventually. Probably.

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4. Tools:

For awhile we used Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner, but a new bottle had a new, terrible scent that I hated. I switched to the orange-flavored Method all-purpose cleaner and like that a lot.

We are (well, I am) definitely a fan of cleaning with vinegar.

OxiClean is fucking amazing. Baby clothes get a lot of stains, as you can well imagine. Soaking them in OxiClean makes the stains gone. LIKE MAGIC.

I was AMAZED when I finally tried Magic Erasers in a bathtub. But OxiClean is just as good, and without nearly as much physical effort/scrubbing. BECAUSE IT’S MAGIC. Like vinegar, you can use it everywhere.

We use swiffer cloths to ‘dust’ and sweep bathrooms. Not even on the swiffer pole handle thing, we just hold the cloth in hand. We get the big box of them from Costco and they live in the hall closet, right next to the upstairs bathroom. Easy to grab, pulls up lots of dust nice and quick.

I recently realized that cotton burp cloths (the plain Gerber ones, which are seriously the best burp cloths ever) are also great for drying and ‘polishing’ surfaces like the sink and the stove. That helps get rid of the last bit of moisture and residue, and makes everything shiny.

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5. Good inspirational reading can put you in the mood to clean!

I love Unfuck Your Habitat — it’s simple, no-nonsense, and generally encourages you to just do it already. Some good specific cleaning tips can be found there too. The 20/10 idea plus “no marathons” are great too. And after scrolling through the befores and afters, I almost always go clean or tidy something. I have the app, too, but don’t really use it. (Because I’m lazy; the app itself seems great.)

For something a little more tasteful, Unclutterer is a good resource. It talks more about methods, options, upcycling/reusing materials, and other thoughts and resources for staying organized. Plus hilarious “unitaskers.”

Last year sometime I found this blog to read occasionally, called I Heart Organizing and I kind of enjoyed going through her posts about challenging herself to do some more detailed home cleaning chores.

Also, apparently, writing about/thinking about cleaning puts you in a mood too! The night I drafted this, I did some kitchen basics later that night, and the next day did a whole bunch of cleaning I’d been putting off. I felt good and excited to make some spaces shinier and cleaner, and then of course I got to check a bunch of things off the chore list! (The problem is that I will probably never re-enact that happy daytime cleaning bug. Oh well. Gotta strike while the iron is hot! Oh that reminds me, I have some ironing that I’ve been putting off….wonder when I will get to that.)

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Child labor:

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So what are your favorite little tips to make cleaning faster/easier/better? Any websites or apps that you like for some cleaning inspiration? Or just tell me that we’re not the only ones who let dust accumulate. 🙂

Learning More Stuff

Apparently the babies have figured out a new skill–by themselves this time.

Yesterday I grabbed the broom to do a quick kitchen sweep. As I was sweeping, Malcolm was watching me, and then after a moment he went and grabbed the dustpan. He held it pointed on the ground and sort of banged it.

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After I swept up the dirt, I let Malcolm hold the broom. And he started trying to ‘sweep’! He kind of pushed it away and back. A few minutes later, Emmett came in and wanted to play. He grabbed the broom and Malcolm played with the dustpan.

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Then Malcolm got the broom and Emmett was upset, but I gave him the swiffer sweeper pole and he ‘swept’ that around the kitchen.

A few minutes later, something upset Malcolm (maybe the broom wasn’t behaving correctly) and he had the biggest tantrum I’ve seen yet. Flailing and flopping, screaming and moaning. I tried to give him a hug, no no no. Tried to give him his pacifier, no no no.

Then he started reaching for me and then after a tiny hug, reared back away. This went on for a few minutes and then I started singing Wheels on the Bus and soon he calmed down and let me snuggle him.

Phew! Quite the up and down.

I am fascinated and delighted that they have both magically picked up sweeping! I’m a little surprised, because I don’t think I sweep that often, especially not in their view. So maybe they are just observant and wanted to copy me this time. But it’s still pretty fun to see them start to play in new ways. We will definitely have to find them some toddler-sized implements, and get a second broom. One broom + two babies = trouble.

And oh boy, I am not looking forward to more of those tantrums! I know they’re coming and I know they’ll only get bigger as the months go on. Here’s to hoping that they always end in snuggles. 🙂