My Kids are Always Dirty

My kids are always dirty. I don’t take the term ‘always’ lightly, yet I feel confident in saying that they are always dirty.

They will cdirtome to visit me at work and my husband will swear that they were clean when they left the house, yet somehow on the ride to see me they have full-grown dirt beards. They are like dirt magicians. They could attract dirt even in one of those scientific ‘clean rooms.’

I will try to make them presentable when we go out in public, but they are sure to have uncooperative bed head. In the winter it might not be bed head so much as hat hair. Regardless, it is sticking up everywhere. The kids also like to rock the one pant leg up, one pant leg down look. If we are not covered in dirt, we are sure to look disheveled.

They are also stain magnets. New clothes don’t stay new for very long on these guys. I try to save or donate the clothes that I can once they have outgrown them, but usually they are so well-worn that it’s not even helping anyone to donate them. Grass stains, dirt stains, and food stains are constantly being pre-treated in our laundry room.

The dirt just doesn’t stay on them, either. I have finger prints all over my walls and my windows. If you find a light switch in my house, odds are that the paint around it is covered in crud from their tiny hands. I have given them baths only to drain the water and find the biggest ring of dirt circling the entire tub. Our remote control buttons sometimes stick because they have gotten who-knows-what all over it.  Several times a week, I must ask the question, “Is that chocolate, poop, or mud?”

Dirt travels from them and covers me, as well. After their visits to see me at work, it is not uncommon for me to go to a meeting, look down, and realize that they rubbed chocolate on my sweater (my co-workers always give them candy) or gave me a muddy boot print on my leg when I picked them up for a hug. When I’m at home, I’m pre-treating my clothes too because I am joining in on the activities that make them so dirty. Like the time that my oldest son found a huge mud puddle by our old house and ran into it before I could do anything about it. I had to wade into it to get him out but we played for a while first. When my husband came home he found a pile of muddy clothes out on our deck.muddy

Our bathrooms are always in need of a good scouring, not because I don’t clean them, just because the regular dirt mixes with bodily fluids in this room. When asked why there was pee everywhere, I was told by my son that sometimes he likes to stand there with his eyes closed and “see what happens.” I’ll show you what happens – you’re going to start cleaning the bathroom yourself!

Recently, I thought that there was just run-of-the-mill dirt on the rug in the boys’ bathroom. I waited a few days to wash it with the bathroom towels until I came to find out what it really was. My son informed me that he had run out of toilet paper while going to the bathroom, so he just wiped himself with the bathroom rug. Instead of just walking over random dirt, we had all been stepping on a skid mark for a couple of days. What I can’t figure out is why he didn’t just ask for more toilet paper? I mean, he is never home alone so someone could have helped him out. So gross.

I used to try to fight all of it, but I feel like I am getting better at accepting the fact that where kids abound, dirt abounds. I do my best to keep things clean and dress them nicely, but I can’t keep them from playing and having fun. So stain up your clothes and fingerprint my walls – that’s the stuff memories are made of.

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5 Cleaning Tips for the Busy Mom

I am a neat freak and I want my home to be clean and organized – always.  I also want to be realistic.  With a toddler and a preschooler, the toys seem to multiply along with the peanut butter finger prints.  For the longest time, I was trying to keep things as clean as they were before we had kids.  I was also trying to stick to the same cleaning schedule but found that I just wanted to bang my head against the wall.  After a lot of trial and error, I came up with some tactics that work for me and keep me (mostly) sane while balancing family, work, and homemaking.  These tips may not be the right fit for everyone, so please keep that in mind.

homemaking

1. Clean something each day or most days.  I used to take a block of time each week or every other week to clean my house from top to bottom.  I tried to do this for a couple years after I had kids and just grew increasingly frustrated.  Who has three hours of uninterrupted time each week??? I work full-time and just cannot dedicate this much time to cleaning.  Even if I didn’t work full-time I wouldn’t have that much time to set aside.  For whatever reason, I was stuck on wanting everything to be cleaned at the same time.  When I let go of that idea I found that doing some type of cleaning task daily was much more feasible.  Now, I will take 10-15 minutes each day and focus on a task.  When I put the boys to bed, I will sweep and scrub the floors or clean the bathrooms.  I have not gotten to the point where each day has a specific assignment, but I clean the area that seems to need it the most.  With crumbs and potty training, the floors and bathrooms always seem to need the most attention.

I try to utilize the time that I have.  For example, if Jeff has the boys outside, I will take that time to run the vacuum upstairs and then I will go outside to join them.  I know that I can vacuum downstairs while they sleep, but I obviously can’t vacuum their bedrooms at the same time.  I consider the laundry to be part of my cleaning routine.  Again, I have found that for me it works best if I just do a load every other day rather than spend a whole day washing, drying, folding, and putting away.  This way, nothing piles up and it’s not nearly as overwhelming to put everything away.

2. Random pick-ups.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Legos are the worst.  Super fun to play with, but they can take forever to pick up.  I try to do several toy clean-ups each day so that it is not so overwhelming at bedtime.  This works best on weekends when I am home all day.  When the boys take their naps, I clean up their playroom and put things back where they belong.  They have to help me with this, but are still learning the concept of picking up after themselves.  I do the same thing when it is time for them to go to bed at night.  Some days, this is a fruitless effort but I still go for it.  Along with this, I try to rotate which toys are downstairs and which toys are in their rooms or the attic.  They still get to play with everything, but less toys equals less clutter.  I have also found that the boys get a little distracted with too many toys and they don’t play as well as a result.

3. Pick an area of focus.  For me, I like to have the downstairs area of our home clean and organized each night.  We don’t spend much time in our bedrooms; while I still want them to be neat and tidy, it’s not as much of an eyesore as it would be downstairs.  I would say that 70% of my downstairs cleaning is taken care of just by organizing the toys each night.  After that, I just wipe down the kitchen counters and dining room table.  If the dishes aren’t washed, I will take care of them and put them away in the morning.  I know myself well enough to know that I feel much more relaxed when I don’t look around and see a cluttered mess.

4. Little things make a big difference. Just by making your bed and folding the throw blankets in the living room, you will notice a major difference.  At the end of a long day, it makes me feel more relaxed when I can walk into my bedroom and see that it is put together.  Call me crazy, but it makes my room feel fresh and welcoming.  Simply folding blankets can make a space feel much less disheveled.  As a bonus, these are things that take very little time to accomplish. 

5. Lowered expectations.  It may not seem like I have lowered my expectations, but I have.  Things are not going to be perfect and they don’t need to be.  We live here.  If we are playing and having fun, I’m not going to put the toys away at nap time because the boys will want to play with the train track that they built when they wake up.  If we are away for the day and are too tired when we get home, then the dishes will be washed the following day.  I am trying to teach the boys how to clean and put things back where they belong.  So if they pick up their toys and they are not exactly neat, I just leave them where they put them.  For me, this has been huge.  They are proud of their effort and I need to acknowledge their work. I am still working through my desire to have everything ‘just so.’  There are days and times when some or all of these steps are skipped.  That’s okay and it’s certainly not the end of the world.

If you came to my home it would not be immaculate, but hopefully it would not be chaotic.  I am all about finding manageable ways to accomplish everyday tasks.  After trying many things, these steps have given me the greatest success.  For a long time I thought it was just impossible to clean with little kids, but now I know better.

Please do not think that I have it all together, because this is all a work in progress.  These are all ideas I got from various people and I would love to hear what you do.  If you are struggling to find a cleaning routine that works, don’t worry – you will get there!  Like I said, it took me several years to find what worked the best not only for me, but for my family and our lifestyle.  What are some of your favorite cleaning tips?  How do you clean with little ones?

My House Smells like Poop

I would say 3-out-of-5 nights a week, I come home from work, open the door and either think or ask, “Did someone just poop?” Rarely is the answer yes. It took me a while, but I finally realized that my house just smells like poop. All of the time.

One time the odor was so bad, that both my husband and I were in our laundry/mud room searching for a dirty diaper. We honestly thought that JJ had grabbed his brother’s diaper after we changed him and chucked it behind the washing machine. Neither one of us could remember if we put the diaper in the garbage can and we didn’t want to go digging through it to find out. We couldn’t find anything behind the washer, but we also couldn’t figure out why such a foul smell was coming from the room where we keep our soaps. Granted, we keep our sweaty shoes in that room, but this was an unmistakable poop smell.

The next day I came home and Jeff had placed a fresh linen wall plug in the laundry room. Odor masked. Problem solved.

My mom will come over to the house and ask about the smell of my bathrooms. Mom, I assure you – the floor is scrubbed, the toilet is scrubbed, the rug has even been washed (JJ experiments a lot with his pee stream). It just always smells like poop. In case you are wondering whether or not we have a sewage issue, we do not. We have a potty trained toddler (most of the time) and a diapered toddler. So poop could literally be anywhere.

I am probably exaggerating the smell. I really do take care of my home – at least I try. But after changing what feels like 49857397 blowout diapers in the past few years, I always smell poop.

The worst is when I take great pains to look and feel presentable and then I get to work or church and swear that there is a skid mark somewhere on my shirt. This did happen once when I was at the grocery store, but I just kept on motoring because there were things we needed and it had already taken me about an hour of prep time to get to the store in the first place. I have also grocery shopped in the same store with vomit on my shirt and leaking breast milk. These things happened on different occasions. It’s a good thing we moved.

Candles are usually out of the question. Our boys love to climb and are naturally mini pyromaniacs, so it’s just an accident waiting to happen. I love the air freshener scents that come out in the fall, so last year I decided to treat myself to some from Bath & Body Works. I believe the scent I picked was Autumn Leaves and I commented to Jeff that in our house it was more like Autumn Fart. There was just enough of the pleasant scent mixed in with the poo. Sometimes you just gotta take the edge off.

fall candle

There are many things that I imagine I will dearly miss when my boys grow up. But I am fairly certain that these smells will not be one of them. The terrifying thing is that I just realized that once the poop smell is gone, the sweat and body odor phase will be right behind it.

Dear Lord, give me strength!