Category: Family

A checklist of housecleaning chores … prepare yourselves for a thrill-a-minute post

Yes, I like checklists. Don’t you? Checklists are a more routine form of the to-do list, of which I am also very fond. And, yes, I like routine too. Let’s hope my family agrees, because this checklist is meant as a guideline for a weekly all-family all-in housecleaning project (or perhaps bi-weekly or tri-weekly; we’ll play it by ear, or by dust, crumbs and debris, as the case may be.) I hope to offer some reward beyond a clean house, lovely though that is, such as Family Housecleaning followed by Family Movie Night. This idea remains, at the writing of this post, a dream yet to be implemented. I will let you know what happens next.

Checklist of chores for Family Housecleaning

Every room
1. pick up toys, books and oddments off the floor
2. find homes for toys, books and oddments (on the nearest surface does not count)
3. dust
4. vacuum
5. check windows: do any need to be cleaned?

Bedrooms
1. organize toy boxes, book shelves, and the stuff that collects on top of dressers
2. check under the beds
3. change sheets and pillowcases and check blankets (do they need to be laundered, too?)

Bathrooms
1. clean toilets
2. scrub shower doors and bathtub
3. clear all counter tops and clean
4. clean sinks
5. clean mirrors
6. check under tub for toys
7. mop floors
8. check: do soap containers need to be refilled? toilet paper restocked?
9. check shelves for clutter and dust, and tidy/clean if necessary

Kitchen
1. clear all counters
2. organize and find homes for everything cleared off of all counters
3. wash counters
4. wash sink
5. wash cupboard doors and backsplash
6. check inside cupboards: any spills? anything need to be cleaned?
7. wash stovetop
8. check oven and fridge: do either need to be cleaned?
9. mop floor

Dining-room
1. clear dining-room table
2. wipe down table and chairs
3. clear buffet surface and wipe clean
4. tidy games-and-puzzle cupboard (optional)
5. mop floor

Living-room
1. find homes for random piles on homework table and on tv cabinet
2. clean piano
3. water plants
4. tidy toy cupboard and art section
5. mop floor if necessary

Front hall
1. put away shoes and boots and jackets and mitts

Hallway and stairs
1. vacuum stairs (including basement stairs)
1. mop hallway if necessary

Basement
1. to be cleaned and tidied as needed

:::

Question: Anything you’d add to the list?

This isn’t a Halloween post, though it falls on Halloween. I have a difficult relationship with Halloween. It seems a strange holiday, making light of death and darkness. Maybe I should just accept it as being another way we humans try to make sense of mortality.

It’s been four years since my father-in-law passed away. He died on Halloween, and Kevin’s mother telephoned late that afternoon, twice, first to tell him to hurry and come home, and then, not long after, to tell him, yes, please come home, but it’s too late to make it in time. But we felt fortunate. We’d been to visit just two days earlier, and knew that goodbye was coming. Still, we wondered what to do. The kids were dressed up and excited about trick-or-treating. How to give them this news? “Take them out,” I said, “and I’ll stay home and pack.” And so that’s how we told them, after trick-or-tricking: when they arrived home with bags full of candy, our bags were packed. There were wrenching sobs, and we changed them into pajamas, hopped into the van, and drove away, letting them eat all the candy they wanted. I don’t suppose we’ll ever forget that night, or that drive. It felt like an adventure, momentous and sad all at once.

A year ago, my grandma passed away on Remembrance Day. Last week, my grandpa, her husband, also passed away, and our family travelled across the border for another funeral, on another autumn day. As we drove to the graveyard for the burial, it was raining and the sun was shining. From our angle, the rainbow that emerged looked like a column of magic dust rising out of the earth, colour, shimmering. We all saw it.

I don’t know what everyone else thought. I don’t even know what I thought, exactly. Just that it was a rare and ephemeral sight, and I was glad for it.

Yard sale bargains

Signs, balloons, excited preparation.

A Friday-afternoon notion turned into a Saturday morning project. We’ve been talking about doing this for years.

The kids did the pricing. And chose the toys from the cornucopia in the attic. Household items were added from basement and garage. There is always, but always, too much stuff. How did we accumulate all of this?

No one bought the office chairs for $1.00. No students came by, which surprised us. (We also had two working TVs for sale, neither of which sold).

But the lemonade and popcorn were a hit. We used last year’s sign, but we didn’t have any “chocolate treats” to sell this year, so we marked them as “sold out.”

We met lots of neighbours. Nothing says, “hey, drop by for a chat” like arranging the contents of your basement and attic on your front lawn.

What didn’t sell was loaded up in the truck and donated to the local MCC store. Everyone chose something to keep (like this pink flashing butterfly wing musical device we’d forgotten existed).

It was fun. But these photos look a little melancholy to me, as I put them together in Blogland. Maybe it’s the concept of arranging your belongings on the lawn and waiting, wondering, who will show up? What will happen? Will anyone want these things that we once wanted and needed and used?

I believe

It looks like such a lonely position to play. But she’s grown into it over this past season — her first season ever playing goalie, in fact, which seems remarkable. On Saturday, her team played in a tournament against the other teams in her league. In each game, a loss meant elimination. The girls played with great heart, and never gave up, even when they were down by a goal with a minute left (as in the final game). They tied that game up, and went on to win in overtime by four goals. They also won a game on penalty kicks.

Penalty kicks are what the parents of the goalie pray never ever happen. But this was her second penalty kick experience, and she’d learned the hard way what to expect — all of the girls had. The first time, she thought it was her job as goalie to stop every ball, and was devastated when she couldn’t; we had to explain afterward that penalty kicks give the advantage to the kicker, not the goalie, and no goalie is ever expected to stop them all. This time, the first two balls went in, but she wasn’t rattled by it. Her team was behind by one shot, but she stayed cool as a cucumber. She stopped the next shots cold, her teammates landed theirs, and that was it. Game over.

Tears and hugs on the sidelines, and a mad rush to congratulate the goalie.

It’s a lonely position, but also a very visible position. What seems so remarkable to me is that she isn’t bothered by either factor. She isn’t fazed by failure, or success. When I complimented her on keeping her calm even after a goal had been scored on her, she said, “Well, I wouldn’t be a very good goalie if I got bothered when a goal was scored.”

It’s also a dangerous position. Making one stop, she was run over by a girl on another team (no call made by the ref), and knocked in the head by the girl’s foot. Her comment? “I think that girl needs to work on her jumping.” But there she was, fearless among the feet, grabbing the ball. Amazing focus, and amazing instinct — to dive toward danger rather than flinch away.

Her parents on the sidelines were playing a very different part in the story. It’s so hard to watch, and to care so deeply, and to be unable to act. I’ve started to understand that my only role, on the sidelines, is to believe in her. She obviously believes in herself.

When the day was done, Kevin and I felt drained. The team was elated: they’d made it to the final, which they’ll play in a couple of weeks. “Was that fun?” I asked Kevin. We couldn’t decide. It was an experience. There are dimensions to parenthood that never entered my imagination when I was gestating my babies: the way your children will lead you to places and through experiences and emotions you never knew you’d be obliged to go — and privileged to go, too.

Uglifying the yard: a work in progress

I usually show photos of our house and yard looking its best. So here’s an alternate view. This is our house and yard (and shed-like garage) looking, well, less than handsome. (The flipped-over wading pool and abandoned sprinkler don’t help).

These photos were taken soon after we cut down several trees in our backyard. I’ll admit that I felt despairing as I assessed the mess. I miss those trees. Taking them down is all part of a long-term plan to bring more sunshine into certain areas of the yard–and next summer, more vegetables. But short-term, let’s just say it looks ugly. The rusty garage is exposed. (Weren’t we going to cover that garage with siding?? It was at the top of our to-do list when we bought the house eight years ago. Funny how priorities change). The house itself looks sort of forlorn and crumbling, an old, shambling, rambling kind of house, like the one I imagine for Meg’s family in the children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time. Which isn’t so bad, really; it’s just that I never noticed before.

The photo above, and the next one, were taken a few days later, when I was feeling better about the general state of our backyard affairs. In the interim, Kevin worked really hard to clean the yard. Either things really do look better, or I just think they do. Don’t tell me which it is, please.

Owning a house means participating in a perpetual work in progress. It’s very metaphorical. All the changing, shape-shifting, rearranging, and repairing. You can look at this yard and see who we are as parents, as a family, guess the ages of our children, get an understanding of our priorities, our finances, and our ability to put into action our intentions.

I like where we’re at. But we’re never done.

Loss

A few entries ago, I wrote briefly about reading Mary Oliver’s Winter Hours. I would love to type out an entire poem here, but without having permission to reproduce it in full, will give you a link instead (and do read it in full), and quote the final four lines of what is probably her most well-known poem: The Summer Day.

She is writing about prayer. She says she does not know what a prayer is, but she does know how to pay attention: “how to be idle and blessed.” She has spent the day in what might appear to be idleness, strolling through fields, kneeling in the grass, examining the grasshopper. She asks:

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everyone die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Yesterday started with unexpected news from my mother’s family: the sudden death of one of my cousins’s spouses, mother of two, only 43. They live in another country, and I can’t say we’ve seen them more than every other year or so. But the day was nevertheless altered by the knowledge of this family, not far removed from my own, suffering an unimaginable shock and loss. What comfort can there be for her boys? Her youngest son is the age of my eldest. There was no preparation, no advance knowledge, just in an instant, one precious life gone. She is no longer in this world with her family.

What waits around the corner? What secret end is hidden inside the body, waiting to reveal itself in time? Nobody knows.

And so, Mary Oliver’s wise and bright words came again to me. No wonder they are quoted so widely. No wonder. Because, yes, everyone dies at last and too soon. And we are all alive, right now. If you are reading this, you are alive. Life is wild. It can’t be tamed, or made safe. It’s all any of us has really got. What are we to do with it? What a question.

Here’s what I did yesterday: hung laundry on the line, made yogurt, smelled my children’s hair, jumped on a trampoline, ran through the woods, cheered from the sidelines of a soccer game, drifted, fought impatience, struggled with my children arguing with each other, and wondered … what more? Or even, what less? What do I plan to do with this one precious life?

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