You know how people have framed, posed family portraits on their living room walls? I have never had one of those, not with my family of origin or with my married family or with me and Six and Older Son.
These portraits fascinate me. I try not to stare rudely at them when I see them. There is a difference between making a polite comment regarding the image of another person’s gene pool and staring at the image like an investigator studying some wing-nut’s murder board.
How do people manage this herculean task?
Please know that I am not criticizing this activity. Much like cooking regularly and vacuuming more than once every two weeks (in my defense, we do not have any pets), this gathering up of the family, shoehorning them into matching outfits, combing all their hair and getting them to the same location at the same time so someone with a camera can get them to huddle together artfully…I envy the people (mostly women) who make this particular brand of magic happen.
I know why my family never did this. We were a family of loners which is very weird to people who grow up in families full of people who have an ordinary ability to be in the company of other humans. Going through the rigamarole of getting all of us together at Sears just to get an image of us all awkwardly staring in different directions would have been an exercise in futility because no one would have taken the time to get a frame for the thing, let alone hang it up on the living room wall.
It wasn’t until later in life that my mom made me schlepp Older Son down to the Sears Portrait Studio on a semi-annual basis, complete with cutesy little kid outfits, to sit for portraits. And then she bought frames and hung the damn things up! It wasn’t until I was taking her house apart after she died that it occurred to me that Older Son was always alone in these portraits. It was never even suggested that I sit in there with him. I don’t mind that I was never in these solo portraits and side-note: Older Son looked adorable in his choo-choo overalls.
I’m deeply interested in the stories casual family snapshots tell. I loved looking at my mom’s photo albums when I was a kid. I found them fascinating and spent hours going over them, often pestering her with questions about the hazy cast of characters I had never met and only heard about when my aunt came to stay for the weekend. Backyard birthday parties, children swimming in a sea of torn up wrapping paper, grandma holding an impossibly tiny baby while sitting in the world’s ugliest Barcalounger…these were the images that spoke a thousand words.
But there is something lovely about a purposeful family portrait. Maybe one day I will drive the boys down to a portrait studio or out to the beach and pay a remarkably patient photographer to try and get us all to unbend enough to appear as if we all belong in the same gene pool. I take that back. Now that we have Six, he will visually tie me and Older Son together, standing between us and beaming out at the photographer, a born extrovert stuck in a family of loners.
Think about the last time you made a grocery list. Did you stick to it, buying only what was on it? If you did, you are my new hero and I salute you. If you didn’t, I feel your pain. Grocery shopping is a complex balance of hard facts and wishful thinking. The true victims of my grocery lists gone awry are the wee Persian cucumbers that molder away into a pile of slime and seeds in the back of my fridge. I always buy them and then the week doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would and who pays the price? Innocent cucumbers, that’s who. Read more
Laundry in 5 easy steps? Yes. Laundry is actually 5 separate jobs. Hear me out.
Sorting: This is the first step of laundry and by far the stinkiest (unless you are washing wool and then getting it out of the washer is the stinkiest.) This can also be either the easiest or the hardest. If you are like me, you do not sort your laundry because you do not buy anything light colored. Sorting problem solved!
If you aren’t an animal, then you buy a variety of colors and must sort them. Or you are washing heavy clothes and lightweight clothes. Or a dizzying combination of all this. And then there are baby clothes and gross work/sport clothes. Delicates (ha! Who has delicates? I want to meet her and then I want to be her because she has skills when it comes to living life and doing laundry.)
Sorting can be where the task of laundry gets derailed. One interruption can throw the entire process off, especially if you don’t want to do it in the first place.
I forgot linens! I know people who are scandalized at the idea of washing linens with regular clothes. I wash swim clothes and beach towels all together because they all get stinky pretty quickly and/or they are full of sand. Also, a couple of our ‘beach towels’ are actually cheap blankets I got at IKEA.
Washing: I knew a woman who, when she ran short of money, washed her clothes in her bathtub and dried them on a drying rack in her kitchen. Washing machines are the dream millions of women over thousands of years have been waiting for. There are still millions of women on this planet who do not have access to one. Washing machines make me very, very, very happy. I use a coin-op one in the laundry room across the parking lot of the apartment building I live in. It is ancient, in the process of shredding our clothes and regularly unravels the hems on our towels and washcloths. I love it.
It is top loading so I dump the contents of the laundry basket into it, sprinkle on some detergent, feed it 5 quarters and then go about my business. The water heater heats the water, the agitator tears my clothes and linens to pieces and then it whirs at a blinding speed to get so much of the water out my clothes often dry very quickly. I don’t boil water or stir stinky clothes or burn myself wringing out wet clothes. It’s fucking awesome, by far my favorite part of doing laundry.
Drying: Here’s where I tend to fall off the pace. I do minimal sorting and as I said, I love all the washer does for me but getting the clothes out of the washer and into the dryer and then out of the dryer is a challenge. One day, about a decade ago, my mom said, “You aren’t going to believe this, I left the clothes in the dryer overnight.” And I said, “Well there goes another pillar of Western Civilization.” As predictable as the patriarchy, my mother timed her wash. Nothing lingered above 5 minutes in either the washer or dryer. I have, more than once, left clothes in the washer so long they either dried out or got so stinky I had to rewash them. I appreciate the dryer because hanging out clothes gives me a crick in my neck and since I live in an urban area, clothes dried outside have a certain unpleasant scent of petroleum. Also, towels get super scratchy when line dried. So here is, for me, where the slowdown begins.
Folding: I wonder how many hours (days, weeks, months) of my life I have spent folding clothes. I folded clothes with my mom when I was a kid so I know the old school drill (one that I do not in any way follow). When I was a kid laundry was done on Saturday because Sunday was reserved for going to the mall. We got up, everyone sorter their own clothes and then my sister and I took turns doing the general leg work of schlepping clothes out to the washer (avocado green, as was the dryer, matched set, natch) and then transferring them to the dryer before bringing them into my mom’s sewing room. There was a recliner, a sewing cabinet (wherein an avocado green sewing machine from Sears resided), a giant bookshelf full of books and an ironing board that was up most of my childhood. Here we would fold the clothes while they were still warm or we would iron them if they needed it. My mom did most of the ironing but I did pillowcases and the top hem of the top sheets so they would lie flat when the beds were made. Despite all this cleanliness, no one in my family made their beds everyday. You made it once a week when you put on new sheets then wallowed around in a mass of linens until the next Saturday. You got one organized night before six nights of chaos ensued.
I do not fold my clothes this way. I stand around and mostly watch something on Netflix until it is time to do something time sensitive like give baths or make food or drive someone somewhere. The clothes get shoved back into the laundry basket. Then we paw like rabid animals through the baskets looking for whatever clean thing we need. My mom never once criticized this system, even though I was raised to do better.
Full disclosure, this morning I was lazing in bed rather than getting up and making an actual breakfast for Six and I patted the bunched up edge of the pillowcase next to me and thought, “This really needs to be ironed.” If thoughts do indeed lead to action, I will be ironing my pillowcases soon. I will never admit it.
Put Away: This step is a bit of a unicorn for me. I have gotten better at getting the clothes away and the linens into the cupboard over the past year. I do have hope that this will become a regular occurrence. There is something soothing about getting everything into place where it’s easily accessible, rather than having people dumping out laundry baskets at 7:15AM, frantically looking for socks that somewhat match.
A person can dream.
If you have been a regular reader of these notes from the home office you are well aware that I am a talker. Well, my dear fellow humans, you haven’t seen nothing yet. In person, I talk even more (if you can believe it). Hillary Hess invited Felicia and I to talk about our app Tend on her excellent podcast, Helping of Happiness Podcast. Read more
Mom meltdowns are as common as kid meltdowns. Mom meltdown averted can be as much of a parenting win as averting a kid meltdown.
I have trouble expressing how I am feeling. When I am embarrassed about those feelings, I have an even harder time. A few months ago, I bought a ring. I love this ring way more than anyone should love a thing that does nothing useful. It just sits on my finger and sometimes gets caught in my hair.
But I do love it and a few weeks ago I couldn’t find it. Read more
I haven’t really liked summer since I was 15. When I turned 16 I got a job and never lounged through another summer ever again. So unless you have a beach house that you don’t have to continuously sweep the sand out of, summer’s here time to lower your expectations. Read more
I don’t know what happened. I was living my life, volunteering here and there, signing up for stuff, being where I said I was going to be, doing what I said I was going to do and then last week… Read more
Dear All the Moms,
We see you working. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, we know you are doing your best. Read more