Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Housework: Who's On Top?

As a teen, I was a member of my high school marching band’s color guard (translation: flag twirler). To some, marching band might sound super nerdy, but we were good (super good!) and we had a lot of fun. One of our more irreverent activities (and there were many irreverent activities) was a pre-competition chant we called “In and Out.” We stood in a circle with our arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders and leaned in and out, while we guessed it: "In" and "Out."

Okay...“chanted” is probably not the most precise word choice here. Some of us chanted but many of us moaned "in" and "out" in a tone that was more than a little sexually suggestive. (While I’ll decline to reveal whether I was a chanter or a moaner, I would like to make the point that I do not advocate this behavior for a group of teenage girls -- or boys for that matter.)

As the chant reached its climax...In...Out...In...Out...the guard captain would shout: “Who’s on top?” To which we would reply: “We are!”

This cute (albeit hugely inappropriate) little chant has come to mind on several occasions since I’ve been at home. I am reminded of it when I think about housework (yes, housework), because for me, housework can go one of two ways: I’m either on top of it, or it is on top of me.

And more often than not, it is on top of me.

When I worked full time, I had this nice little fantasy about how clean my house would be if I stayed home. (Ha! This might be the case if I didn’t spend most of my day chasing a toddler). Since then, I’ve discovered that the biggest obstacle to staying on top of housework when you’re home is the fact’re home, messing the place up all day.

“So, you’re going to teach other people how to keep their house clean?” the Husband asked a few weeks ago, his skeptical gaze shifting from the dirty dishes to unkempt piles of paper on our kitchen counter.

“No,” I answered defensively, “I’m going to write about my struggles with housekeeping and share some techniques I’ve found useful.”

This reply seemed to shut him up. (At least for a little while). But seriously, the housework has been on top of me for the last three or four weeks, so his snarky remarks are bound to resurface if I don’t get myself back on top...and soon!

I will be the first to admit that I’m no housekeeping diva...I took some pictures last week, just to prove my point:


On days like these when the housework is on top of me, I have this fear that anyone who shows up at my home and sees this mess is going to think What the hell does she do all week?...After all, its not like she has a job!

But even if there were any validity to this fear, let them think what they will! I might feel stuck underneath a giant pile of housework these days, but that is only because I’ve been on top of other things.

For example:
  • working on this blog,
  • helping the Bear adjust to toddler preschool,
  • obsessing over HGTV, real estate, and my dream to become a superstar property flipper,
  • and finally, baking lots of wonderful goodness with the bounty of my CSA subscription and meager garden (including a roasted tomato strata and a peach cobbler).
I intend to share more thoughts on housework in upcoming posts -- thoughts that will be relevant whether you spend your days at home or at work, thoughts that have been shaped, in part, by my training as a librarian. For now, let me conclude with this: Being on top of your housework is great, but sometimes you’re on bottom and that is okay, too. It usually means you’re on top of something else!

More to follow,

Jaelithe, the L@H

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meet the Bear

The Bear is a toddling, jibbering little thing, as sweet as a peach -- with a few small spots of rotten! She is a planned child who came a little sooner than planned, our happy little being, who is oh so loving and snuggly!

Just last week she officially hit 18 months. She is barreling toward the infamous “terrible two’s” and like many toddlers, she is increasingly defiant. For instance, she will persist in a behavior precisely because I have asked her to stop it. Examples include throwing food on the floor, turning her sippy cup upside down, pulling cabinet doors open as far as safety latches will allow and then banging them shut again and again and again....Oh, how I love my little Bear!

“I kinda don’t want her to stop when we tell her to,” the Husband admitted one evening as our cabinet doors were banging, banging, banging. “I want her to be a little stubborn.”

“I think she is stubborn” I said. “Just a smidge.”

The Bear presides over her kingdom (our living room) with the assistance of her loyal followers: the Giraffe, the Tiger and the Kitty Cat. She tosses aside most dolls, but the stuffed animals are her babies. And she has become quite the little mother! The first time I saw her give the Giraffe a drink of water, I choked on my own tears. How did she learn to do this? Well...I guess that would have to be from watching me! She gives her babies hugs and kisses, brushes their fur, and pushes them around in her tiny toy stroller. Last week, we were playing outside, and I all but stapled her white sun hat to her head. She was so peeved, her soft baby cheeks red with annoyance as she yanked on the chin strap. And yet, a few hours later I found her serene as a saint, lovingly placing the same sun hat on her Giraffe.

By now you might have guessed that the Giraffe is her Number One, followed by the Tiger and then the Kitty Cat. However, I am sensing a shake up in this hierarchy; it seems the Puppy Dog (not to be confused with the Doodles) is advancing into the top three. I’m not sure who he’ll oust, but I promise to keep you posted.

Like any good librarian mama, I have been reading to the Bear since her first week outside the womb. (Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t recall reading to her in utero). Naturally, the Bear loves, loves, loves her books. I wish I could say she gets this from me, but she could very well get it from the Husband. In the last couple months she has been known to take my hand and force a book into it when she wants a story. And she is not shy, she will force books into the hands of virtual strangers. (Such a sly little book worm!)

These days her big thing is talking. Talking, talking, talking! Earlier this summer, she went through a phase where she stayed awake in her crib, chitter-chatting with the Giraffe for at least an hour. But now she is starting to say real words. And she repeats everything like a mischievous little parrot! I have been racking my brain for some toddler-appropriate swear words, so let me know if you’ve got any ideas. Even the seemingly benign “crap” is now followed by her tiny echo: “Cwap! Cwap, cwap, cwap!”

A few weeks ago I tormented myself with the thought of going back to work. I somehow managed to stumble on an opportunity I wasn’t sure I could pass up. For days I agonized over the pros and cons: career advancement and increased financial security versus home, hugs, and time. (I realize this is a super simplified summary of a dilemma many mothers face, but I’m going to breeze by it so I can tell a story about the Bear, who is the subject of this post). One particular morning, I woke up absolutely sick over the seemingly real possibility of going back to work, and when I went in to get the Bear, I found her standing in her crib, tiny fingers curled around the rail, wisps of hair in her eyes. She looked up at me and said one word: “Poop.”

And that was it. She said “poop,” and I knew I would stay home a little longer.

You see, this was the first time I’d ever heard the Bear say “poop.” And oh, how avidly I praised her when I realized there was actual poop in her pants! We were such proud parents that week. Unfortunately, the Bear misconstrued our initial enthusiasm. I think her mind emphasized the word, but de-emphasized (or discarded altogether) the fact that the word communicated the physical presence of doo-doo in her diaper.

And so, now she says “poop” all the time. “Poop, poop, poop.” It is her favorite word. She says it sometimes when there is poop, but more often than not, she says it when there is no poop at all. I warned her that she might become known as “the little girl who cried poop,” but she only cocked her head and spoke it again, like a question, “Poop?”


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meet the Doodles

Just before the Husband’s third year of law school, our landlord decided to convert our inexpensive, yet charming, perfectly located apartments into condos. Needless to say, they did not care that I had planned for us to live there, in that perfect location at that perfect price, until the Husband was out of law school and we could afford to buy a house. No, no, they would not renew our lease.

After a few hours of sheer horror at the prospect of moving, I had a revelation: we would rent a house with a fence and we would get a dog!

I had never had a dog, but I had developed a friendship with my sister-in-law’s Chihuahua, and I had heard many stories about Sissy, a Chihuahua mutt the Husband had grown up with (may God rest her little doggie soul). And so, on my whim, we decided to become dog owners.

During the next week, any time I’d get stressed about moving, the Husband would tap his fingernails on a hard surface, reminding me that soon we would enjoy the rap, tap, tap of our new puppy’s nails as she scurried across hardwood floors. The house we eventually rented had no hardwood floors, but we loved its big fenced-in yard.

One of the most illogical things the Husband and I have ever done is rent a moving truck, park it, and then drive to Central Kentucky (four hours round trip!) to pick up a puppy the night before we moved into our rental house. We met the Chihuahua breeder at a Taco Bell of all places. The Husband kept saying “Remember Jaelithe, if the dog looks sick, we’ll say no thanks and get the hell out of here.”

Thankfully, she was one healthy pup. I’ll never forget the love that surged through my chest the moment I first saw her. She was teeny-tiny and panting, her long pink tongue dangling below eyes that were way too big for her head. (It would take some time for her to grow into those huge, buggy eyes!) I had known in advance her coat was chocolate brown and had planned on calling her Cocoa, but somehow we decided to name her Chloe. She would have many nicknames over the years including (but certainly not limited to) Puppy, Doggins, Puppy-Doggins, Meatball, Tiny Dancer, Boo, Moo, Chlo-Bobbins, Chlo-Bobs, Chlo-Meister, Noodles, Doodles, Doodle-Bug, Do-Bubs...With the exception of Meatball, I’m pretty sure I came up with all these names. More often than not, the Husband calls her Chloe. In the blogosphere, I will call her the Doodles.

The Husband is always trying to remind me that the Doodles is “just a dog,” but she’s more than that to me. She was our first baby, the first living thing we parented together, and the first creature to compel me to refer to us as “Mommy” and “Daddy.”

“I’m not that dog’s Daddy,” the Husband says, which I can respect; however, I am her Mommy.

Ever since we had a human baby, I have tried (with varying degrees of success) to maintain my bond with the Doodles. She came into my life when I was dealing with a lot of anxiety about the possibility of parenthood, and if it weren’t for her, I’m not sure I would have been able to make the leap to parenting a real baby. I’m grateful for her companionship and the many things she has (unwittingly) taught me.

Perhaps the most important lesson gleaned from my life with the Doodles is this: as a parent, you need to love your “child” for who she is, not for who you hope and dream she will be. In the beginning, I tried to take the Doodles on walks, but she really, really hated them. (The other dogs in the neighborhood stressed her out to the max!) I kept hoping she would adjust, but eventually I realized our walks were creating major stress in her life, all because of something I wanted -- that she clearly did not want! Now whenever I go for a walk, the Doodles stays at home.

Another hope and dream for my little doggie child was fashion. I loved to dress up the Doodles, and in the beginning she had an adorable little wardrobe (complete with doggie-sized hangers!) but she absolutely hated wearing clothes. In time it became clear that regardless of how I felt about tiny dogs in clothes, the Doodles was happiest in her own fur.

A few more things about the Doodles: she likes cigarette butts, eats whatever rot she can find in our back yard, and sleeps about 23 hours a day. Now that I have left the workplace to stay home and chase after a toddler, I have discovered that the Doodles can very often annoy the crap out of me, but I still love her just the way she is.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Meet the Husband

The Husband says no one is interested in learning about my family, but I'd like to introduce them. After all, I am the Librarian @ Home, so it makes sense that readers might want to learn a little about who I live with. If you're not interested, I guess you can always skip this post...

The Husband is my college sweetheart. I'm not sure if I can really call him that, because we didn't start dating until our last year of college, but I like to call him that (probably because I never had a high school sweetheart).

The Husband and me, December 31, 2000
When I first met the Husband he had a girlfriend, and he was a skinny, vegan indie rocker. He also thought I was a snob, but I wasn't really. I was pining over some fool who broke my heart and didn't want to waste my time getting to know some random new dude, especially one who was unavailable.

During the next year the Husband dropped both the girlfriend and the vegan lifestyle. (There were always donuts for sale in the music school, and he could only resist the temptation for so long). I ran into him every once in a while and eventually started thinking I'd kinda like to date that boy.

One fall morning I was at Starbucks, studying at a window table, but I had taken a break to make a list of places I could move after college graduation. It looked something like this:

San Francisco

I was probably staring out the window in a daze, dreaming about my future, when the Husband walked by with a group of friends. We exchanged a wave through the glass, and then he came in to talk to me while his friends ordered coffee. (The Husband has never been a coffee drinker and despite my efforts to convert him, he will probably never become one).

I showed him my list of potential cities, emphasizing Louisville, because I knew he was from New Albany and I thought he’d be impressed. (New Albany, Indiana is right across the Ohio River from Louisville).

This Starbucks encounter was one of the most foretelling events of my life, because less than a year later, we moved to Louisville together. (Wow!)

I married the Husband in 2003. I love him for many reasons, but the one I will share with you now is his sense of humor. If I am cracking up, it is usually because of something he said. It is very possible that in a few months you will be reading this blog, cracking up, not because of something I said, but because I am writing about something he said.

The Husband is a classically trained musician. He switched his major to music the night before he started his sophomore year as a transfer student (a decision that tormented his parents!). When he was 25, he had a “quarter century crisis” and decided to go to law school, so now he is a smarty-pants attorney. I get lawyered every time we fight and often resort to this line of defense: What you’re saying is wrong. I don’t know why it’s wrong, but it is! Believe me, this is a lame defense, but sometimes it works.