I really don’t like housecleaning. Even before I had kids, I was at best a mediocre housekeeper. And ever since Anastasia was born, I’ve had the perfect excuse to never clean my house. Because even when you’re using nontoxic cleaning supplies (i.e., vinegar), it’s still very difficult–and often impossible–to clean house with a baby strapped to your chest. But no matter how opposed I am to cleaning generally, there are a few times when I absolutely have to clean at least some parts of the house. And DiaperFreeBaby meetings are one of them. Because, you see, when babies are going to be using your toilet, then you need to have a clean bathroom. And when there are going to be diaperless babies in your house, then you need your little potties to be clean. And when babies are going to be crawling on your floor, then you have to at least sweep the floor first.
So. Since I had a DiaperFreeBaby meeting at my house yesterday, I had to clean a few things. Potties, bathroom, floor.
I am not kidding when I say it took me all week to do it.
By Thursday morning, I had managed to clean the potties. (This was a bit of a project. Without getting too graphic, let me just say that if you have a preschooler who potties herself in a little potty every morning, you should always make sure she dumps it into the toilet right away instead of leaving it there and forgetting about it till later. Because when big-kid pee sits in a potty indefinitely, it is really hard to clean.)
(And if anybody has any advice for getting the encrusted pee remains out of the potty that I scrubbed unsuccessfully for a good half hour, I’m all ears. I am looking for a method that does not involve my bare fingernails.)
But since the potties were (mostly) clean, I decided to work on the bathroom. Mind you, this is a small bathroom. Tiny, even. It’s so small that we switched the door so it opens out instead of in because it was practically impossible to open the door when you were inside the bathroom. It’s slightly larger than the stall of a public restroom.
In normal circumstances, it would take me all of ten minutes to clean this bathroom, top to bottom. I mean, you can scrub the entire floor of this bathroom by hand without ever having to move your knees. But on Thursday, it took me four hours to clean it.
Why? I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you. Here’s what my day looked like on Thursday.
7:30 Teddy wakes up to potty. I hold him over the potty while he poops. This will take a while.
7:35 Anastasia comes in wanting to nurse.
7:45 Teddy finishes pooping. I set him down to entertain himself while I nurse Anastasia.
7:55 Teddy starts fussing, so I nurse both of them at once.
8:00 Matt comes in and convinces Anastasia to come eat breakfast.
7:40 I get up and get dressed and then put Teddy in the carrier.
7:55 I go to the kitchen and make coffee. Then I grab a yogurt for my breakfast. While I eat it, I tell Anastasia a story.
8:15 Teddy starts acting sleepy. I nurse him in the carrier while I put dishes away. Matt leaves for work.
8:30 Teddy is asleep. Anastasia is in the toy area doing something and not asking me for anything, so I think I’ll be able to set Teddy down soon. I sit down to drink coffee for a few minutes while Teddy gets into a deep sleep.
8:45 I go into bedroom and carefully take Teddy out of the carrier and move him to the swing. He stirs a little but doesn’t wake.
8:50 I go back out to the main room and see that Anastasia has found a roll of tape. She has also found a headband with reindeer antlers that she got for Christmas. She is assiduously taping the headband to the floor. Awesome.
8:55 Armed with a spray bottle of vinegar and a rag, I head into the bathroom. I clean the mirror.
9:00 Teddy wakes up. I put down the vinegar and go to pick him up and rock him.
9:15 Teddy is back asleep, and I put him back in the swing and head back to the bathroom. I clean the shelf under the mirror.
9:20 Anastasia comes into the bathroom. “Who wants to buy these socks?” she asks.
“I do, ” I reply dutifully. “How much are they?”
“Ok.” I hand her an imaginary five-dollar bill and take the socks in my left hand while using my right hand to spray the sink with vinegar. I put the socks in my pocket. Anastasia disappears.
9:25 “Now pretend I’m your daughter and I really want some socks as a present,” Anastasia says as she skips back into the bathroom.
“Oh, daughter!” I exclaim while wiping down the sink. “I have a present for you!”
“No, wait,” Anastasia says; “first pretend I’m the sock store and you have to buy some socks.”
“I already bought them.”
“Oh. Well. Pretend you’re the sock store and I want to buy some socks.”
I’m getting confused. Clearly this game is going to require more attention than I’m giving it. I put down the rag and follow Anastasia into the other room.
9:35 After several exchanges of socks and presents, during which I play the sock store, the mother, and the daughter in turn, Anastasia climbs into my lap and asks for mama milk.
“You already had lots of mama milk. And I need to clean the bathroom.”
“No! Don’t ever clean the bathroom! I want the bathroom to be dirty! If I can’t have mama milk, then tell me a Delilah and Mitzi story.”
(I am so sick of Delilah and Mitzi stories. I tell about thirty per day. I wish my husband had never invented them.)
But the words from “Songs for a Fifth Child” wander through my head, and I decide that the bathroom can wait. “You need attention, don’t you?” I say to Anastasia. “Do you need me to just stare at you and play with you and give you attention?”
“Yes!” she exclaims in delight, and I hold her face in my hands and we have a staring contest. And I tell her a Delilah and Mitzi story. And I read Gray Squirrel at Pacific Avenue. Twice.
10:05 Teddy wakes up. Anastasia comes with me to get him. We unswaddle him, potty him, and bring him into the living room. I put him in the bouncy seat, and she pulls her chair right next to him so she can play with him.
10:15 I sneak back into the bathroom and finish wiping the sink. Then I spray the toilet with vinegar. And wipe it down. I am making serious progress here!
10:25 Teddy cries. I go back to the living room and see Anastasia hugging his head. “Honey, be gentle,” I admonish her.
“I am being gentle!” she insists. “He wants his big sister.”
Actually, I think he wants to pee. I take him out of the bouncy and discover that he already peed. I take off his wet clothes and offer the potty. He doesn’t go, but when I try to take him off, he fusses. I hold him upright until he burps.
10:35 Anastasia helps me re-dress Teddy. I decide to play with him for a while. Because he’s so cute, he makes cleaning utterly unimportant. Anastasia and I make faces at him to get him to smile. Success!
10:50 Teddy starts acting sleepy. I put him back in the carrier and nurse him. Anastasia starts playing with her My Little Ponies, and I put a few more clean dishes away.
11:05 Teddy is asleep. I should wait till he’s deeply asleep to transfer him, so I start writing this blog post.
11:15 I transfer Teddy to the swing. Anastasia is pulling out the tails of her My Little Ponies and switching them to different ponies. Sweet.
11:20 Back to the bathroom. Did I finish cleaning the toilet? I’m not sure, so I clean it again. Then I go to get the broom and mop so I can clean the floor.
11:25 I’m waylaid by Anastasia on my way to the kitchen. “I can’t find the pink pony!” she cries. “The one with the blue hair!” I follow her to the toy box. The pink pony is on top of the box of ponies, right where he belongs. I hand it to Anastasia, and she happily pulls his tail out.
That was my favorite pony when I was a kid. Oh well.
11:30 What was I doing again? Oh yeah. Bathroom. I find the broom and the mop, take them to the bathroom, and start sweeping.
11:35 Teddy cries. Argh! I lean the broom against the wall and go pick him up. Since he’s only been asleep for half an hour, I rock him instead of getting him up. He goes back to sleep.
11:50 I put Teddy back in the swing. Back to the bathroom. I sweep the floor.
12:00 Anastasia starts crying. I go out to see what’s wrong. “I can’t get the pony’s tail back in!” she sobs. I put it in for her, look at the clock, and realize I have now been trying to clean the tiny bathroom for three hours. Also, it’s lunchtime, which explains why she’s crying.
“What do you want for lunch?” I ask her. She wants ice cream. I suggest turkey. After a long debate, we settle on a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.
12:15 Anastasia is sitting at the table with her sandwich. I grab a few pieces of turkey lunch meat, stuff them in my mouth, and head back to the bathroom.
12:20 I finish sweeping and start mopping. The mop is a bit dirty, but I want to save the clean mop head for when I mop the rest of the house later, so I get a rag to wipe the last of the dirt up.
12:30 Teddy wakes up. I go get him, pee him (his diaper was dry! Yay!), and bring him into the main room. Anastasia drops her sandwich and makes a beeline for us. “I want to play with Teddy!” she exclaims. I put him in the bouncy, and she sits next to him, enthralled.
12:40 I go back to the bathroom and finish cleaning the floor. I can’t believe it! I’m done!
12:50 I realize I forgot to clean the toilet bowl. I use vinegar because I don’t feel like going back to the kitchen to get the toilet bowl cleaner. Because that would require going through the living room, and who knows what activities I’d get drafted into on the way there? Something involving My Little Ponies, reindeer headbands, and sparkly glitter.
12:55 Now I’m really done cleaning the bathroom. Which means we now have to go grocery shopping and order the cake for Anastasia’s birthday party this weekend. So I have no more time to clean the floor.
And that is why I was up till 11 pm on Thursday night peeling tape off a reindeer headband so I could mop the floor. But it’s all right. My house is cleaner than it’s been since before Teddy was born, and it feels really nice.
But I have also decided that anyone with more than one child really, really, really should use a cleaning service.
Next week: Operation Laundry.
Disclaimer: This story is slightly fictionalized. Slightly. But only because I can’t remember exactly what specific games Anastasia made me play with her last Thursday. Everything in the story is based on reality.