Saturday, February 03, 2007

Maintenance and Motivation

Calling all wise women. What motivates you? How do you get the job done? I Know some of you were born motivated, you clean like you breath... instinctively, regularly, deeply. I want to hear from those of you with scary closets. I want to talk to the moms with more interest in making blanket forts, driving to the mountains, setting up aquariums and baking cookies than rotating their mattresses, mopping, hanging coats, scrubbing grout. The truth is, I know how to clean. I know about getting organized and being diligent. I know that keeping a house clean is a constant job, and not a one time event that is repeated only periodically. Knowing these fun facts and accepting them, incorporating them in my life, has not happened. The other truth is that I used to feel slightly more motivated than I do these days. I used to place a vase of flowers on my dining table and it was the perfect catalyst for cleaning. The beautiful flowers would inspire me to make the rest of the room as lovely as the blossoms, and I could even move the same vase to another room and spread the effect. I also employed music therapy. Playing upbeat music, opening the windows, I would dance the house clean. Neither of these tried and true methods is working. Sadly, I don't even buy myself flowers anymore, because they irritate me with their plaintive cries: "Clean this house!" So, I've banished bouquets.

Yesterday William decided that he and I could get the house clean in time for the Stupor Bowl. My old methods of self motivation may be waning, but I must say my children have a powerful effect on me. How can I deny them hope? How can I face their enthusiasm and meet it with doubt, denial or refusal? I cannot. We cleaned. He cleared the kitchen counter. Together we banished lingering remnants of Christmas. We filled two shopping bags with items to donate. We took four bags of recycling to the big blue barrel outside the garage. I also answered several phone calls, took lunches to Max and Alex, and kept Maria safe, happy, nursed, changed, and cuddled. There was also the trip to the barber. (How can two haircuts take 1 hour and 40 minutes? No matter. We like Daniel, and the boys look so handsome.) Technically the house did get cleaner. Are we ready for company? No. If you rang my doorbell, I would instinctively duck, hush the children and pretend to not be home. Sad, yet true. But I am still cleaning (tricked you... I'm actually writing... but I will get back to it... honest.) I have my music playing. Gwen Stefani, Regina Spektor, Shakira, Julieta Venegas and Nelly Furtado are my cleaning homegirls. We're getting down with our bad selves.

So, what gets you going? Do you like the feel of pressed sheets and the fragrance of Pine Sol? Do you clean because you fear what the neighbors would say if you let things go? Are you inspired by flowers, or is it like breathing for you? I remember Grandmother telling me she likes washing dishes, because she enjoys the sound of running water. Sometimes I like washing dishes, because I like to think of Grandmother enjoying the running water.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Today on Fresh Air...

Chickenblog is nearly five years old. Chickenblog is a journal, a spectrum that ranges from sublime, yet glorious expression to tedious whining, with a lot of cute pictures for variety and interest. I like to think that all of this writing and self expression is only for dear friends and interested family, and that Chickenblog is only a means of staying in touch without having to lick a stamp. But, late at night, when the house is quiet and I've fallen in bed, I close my eyes and let my dreams wander, and often those dreams take me to Fresh Air. Yes, Terry Gross wants to talk to a regular-mom kind of woman and she's picked me because besides being regular, I am also witty and interesting. She likes what I have to say about sunsets, raising four children, Autism, Geek life, living in, and between, two cultures, and home schooling. She likes that I'm a smart-ass that cooks, quilts, and knows how to pop corn on the stove top.

Don't pay too close attention to my modest remarks, or self deprecating humor. I may sound indifferent, jaded, but there's more going on in my head. It's not as though I don't want to stand out, to be recognized for my deep thoughts and musings. From the safety of my dreams it seems awfully nice when Terry Gross leans in to hear about my childhood, and my reflections on the disappearance of the middle class, and even middle-age, in American culture. In my wistful wanderings, I am articulate, succinct, interesting. But then there is the rest of my day, when kids need to be picked up from school and the mess in my car is a driving hazard, and a hundred other things are keeping me from believing I have the time or skill to be anything more than a regular mom. And hey, I have a lot to say about being a "regular mom," because it is really quite amazing, and full of more than most people suspect, but I can't get into any of that right now, because I do have to pick those kids up from school.

Chickenblog is nearly five years of scratching the surface, making dinners, cleaning messes, finding joy and grace.

Janice, you make me feel exceptional, even when I answer the door naked. Thank you.
Whoa! It's Friday. I am only mildly surprised, unlike Geoff who was shocked to realize he was missing an entire day. Poor guy... working around the clock, through weekends, how can he be expected to know one day from another? I thought he would be happy to realize we'd arrived at Friday already, but of course for him it means he's got more work to do, in shorter time, than he realized.

I feel his pain. Literally. More work at the office means pretty much the same around here. It means I got no back-up, no weekend down time. So, when do I face the music and gracefully bow out of my Stupor Bowl Party? Yes, I actually invited friends over to eat chili and cheer for the best commercials on Sunday. I think I am going to be a wimp and a hypocrite. Wimpy me does not feel the ambition to be a hostess (cooking, cleaning, decontaminating etc...) And hypocrite me does not want to smile blithely and make believe that a little clutter is no obstacle to fun with friends. I like to believe that women should relax and quit presuming to have their lives in perfect order, but the lack of order around here is on a magnitude that justifies genuine embarrassment and shame.

Alex and Max are getting haircuts today, at Daniel's. Alex is overjoyed, because he likes to keep the hair out of his eyes. Max is utterly dejected, because he likes his hair long enough to reach between his teeth (eeww!) Max's hair is a beautiful, thick mane and I wish he could be my hair donor. With his hair cut, I think he may improve his reading, by virtue of being able to see.

I think I may be avoiding life. I am sitting here trying to think of more details to share, when I should be mailing the rent, doing laundry, darning my bras and calling friends with my bad news. Still here. Still stalling. Sigh.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Many Moods Of Gilbert

Alex has started a little mood barometer. He likes frogs and he likes drawing and so to express his overall impression of his day at school he brings home frog drawings. The frog reflects his day. William and I, Max and even Maria look forward to each day's frog. Sometime last week when I picked Alex up, I didn't even have to ask him about his day to know that it wasn't a good one. He had the tired and sad look of a boy in middle school. He handed me this first frog...

Some days are better than others, for us all.

I love today's frog. I think this is A+ Frog, Caught the Football Frog, Light Homework Frog.

Happy Frog.