When You Talk and They Only Hear the Teacher from Peanuts

Children are impressive creatures. And not always in a good way. I’m surprised by how much they continue to surprise me.

My husband and I were preparing to leave the house. I searched out the boys and found them huddled on Daryl’s bed, Daryl playing a game on his phone and Hal on his Kindle Fire.

“Boys, listen to me,” I said to get their attention. They glanced up quickly and then looked back at their screens.

“Daryl, I want you to put this basket of laundry in the washing machine. Are you listening?”

A brief nod.

“And then I want you to move it to the dryer when you can. There are clothes in the dryer. I want you to dump them on my bed. Do NOT leave them in a hamper – they are delicates, okay?”

He looked up and nodded.

“I also want you to fold your laundry that is in the green hamper at the end of the couch. Okay?”

He nodded.

“Both of you. I mean it. If that laundry isn’t folded when we get back, you are both losing your electronics for the rest of the day. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said one, looking up.

“Yes,” said the other.

“Don’t put it off. Don’t think you can just do it later because you’ll get busy and distracted. Go ahead and do it soon. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

When we returned a couple of hours later, the first thing I saw was two boys sprawled on the couch watching TV. The second thing I saw was the Kindle Fire in Hal’s hands. The third thing I saw was the green hamper still full of clothes at the end of the couch.

“Give me your electronics. Right now – hand them over. And turn off the TV. Now!”

“How much is left in the episode,” my husband asked as he passed through.

I ignored him and picked up the green hamper and shook it in the general direction of the boys.

“I told you. I told you I’d take away your electronics if you didn’t get this laundry folded.”

“Oh,” said my now clued-in husband who walked on.

“Did you put the other laundry in the washing machine like I told you to?” I asked as I headed toward their room to find out.

“There wasn’t any laundry in our hamper!” protested Daryl.

“That’s because it was all in the white hamper in your room,” I said as Daryl continued with, “and we did fold the laundry. I didn’t know about that hamper!”

The pieces all fell into place as I heard his words and saw the empty hamper in the center of their room.

“Did you fold the laundry in that hamper?!” I asked incredulously.

“Yes.”

“But that was the DIRTY laundry! Seriously, guys?! Did you put all the dirty laundry away in your drawers?”

“We didn’t know! You didn’t say!”

“I most certainly did! And you didn’t notice any of those clothes were dirty? So where are the clothes that belonged to…”

My husband called from our room as intuition led me to head that way, “So what are all of these clothes?”

“They’re dirty!” I exclaimed.

“You told me to put your clothes on your bed,” tried a defeated Daryl.

“The clean clothes from the dryer!”

“You didn’t say…”

“Yes I did.” And I proceeded to recount my original instructions as Daryl looked on in confusion and Hal looked like he was going to cry.

“I didn’t hear all that,” Daryl said.

“Yeah, I picked up on that. How could you not notice that any of this was dirty? The clothes on our bed stink to high heaven!”

“That’s because they are workout clothes,” laughed my husband.

My initial anger abated and I started to see the humor and need for grace in the situation. Daryl and Hal were both ill, Hal very much so. They had nevertheless attempted to follow what they thought my instructions were and had put away some laundry.

“Listen guys,” I said, taking a more conciliatory tone and hugging Hal. “I won’t stick to the punishment if you will get all your dirty clothes out of the drawers and put them back in this hamper and fold the clothes in the green hamper.”

“You tried to do what I said,” I added, laughing.

Then I turned to the closet, where a pair of dress pants were hung very neatly. They were hung so neatly that you would have thought I had done it. Hal never hung his pants so well. But this time he had. He had very nicely hung up the pair of pants he had vomited on the night before.

“Hal, you even hung up your vomit pants, buddy?”

“Well, I thought you had washed them,” he said as I looked at all the obvious spots along the front.

No, dear, I don’t think you thought at all. You or your brother – the entire time we were gone. Bless your little hearts. I think I’ll blame it on the fever.

Whose Fault Is It?

A certain seven year old someone was slow to get up on this, his fifth day of second grade. When he finally managed to climb down from his bunk, he entered my room in just his underwear, whiny.

“Mommy… I want to wear my pants today but nobody did laundry.”

“That’s because we normally do laundry on the weekend. If you needed pants, you should have said something. You know that,” I said as I followed him to his closet.

“I don’t need laundry. I just wanted to wear pants but since I only have one pair…” He reluctantly reached for a pair of shorts.

“You only have one pair because you are growing so fast that Daddy didn’t want to buy you a bunch of pants that you’d grow out of before winter.”

“Well! You never told me that you only do laundry on the weekends.”

“There are lots of things that are true that I don’t specifically say to you. The fact is, if you wanted some laundry that wasn’t available you should have said something. We could have done something about it last night.”

You didn’t do laundry, you didn’t buy me enough pants, you never told me.

I (essentially) have two teenagers and a baby-of-the-family. The entire parental side of my being revolves around something not being right in one of my progeny’s life and it being someone else’s fault, no matter how convoluted the logic gets.

Just Another Mystery of Motherhood… Solved

I do the laundry every weekend. This weekend, my husband helped out by running a couple of loads through on Friday. I fold the laundry in our bedroom, making neat little piles for the boys to take to their rooms or for me and my husband to put away in our closet. But something was missing from the piles this past weekend.

Several somethings, actually. I began to wonder if maybe my husband was inept at collecting the laundry, but the hampers were empty. I would have expected approximately 14 of these somethings and instead there was only one. One pair of little boy underwear. Just one. I stared at the piles in disbelief as I finished folding the last load. One pair of underwear – Hal’s.

So let me get this straight, I thought to myself. Hal only changed his underwear once this week. And Daryl… Daryl never changed them at all. He’s still wearing the same underwear he wore a week ago? But he’s showered! Surely he didn’t put stinky, crusty underwear back on day after day?

Daryl, of course, insisted that he had changed his underwear. He couldn’t explain the lack of any clean pairs in the laundry. “Maybe someone took them out of the hamper,” he suggested.

Riiiight.

The mystery went unsolved until last night. Jane declared the bathroom floor a mess. I concurred and instructed Hal to pick up all the towels that were on the floor and take them to the hamper. So he picked up the five towels that littered the floor and this is what remained:

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We found the underwear. Eight pairs – four each exactly. So four showers. Four pairs of underwear. That’s about right since they fight taking showers so much, I only require showers every other day (unless they’ve gotten sweaty and/or dirty). Of course, they are still supposed to change their underwear…

But I guess I’ll take two-day underwear wearing over seven-day. Small comforts.

Laundry Minefield

{NOTE: I wrote this back in December, but… pay close attention to the first paragraph… it got lost in the shuffle. So I’m running it now. Hope you still enjoy it.}

I did laundry on Saturday, just like I usually do when life is running like it should. Life wasn’t exactly running like it should however… I was on day 2 of a debilitating head cold. I was stressed about an upcoming doctor’s appointment that I might not be able to keep if still sick. Between the two boys, we had three basketball games and two basketball picture sessions. And Christmas was rapidly approaching. But still, I stuck it out and got all the laundry washed and dried, if not folded, between sessions of resting and running to-and-fro.

Or… I thought I got all the laundry washed and dried. After insisting firmly that everyone was going to bed at their usual time because I simply couldn’t handle folks staying up late even if it was Christmas break, I headed into the boys’ room to tuck them in for the night. As I carefully picked my way through the debris on their floor to approach their bed, I noticed that a considerable amount of that debris was stuff needing to be laundered. I looked around in dismay as I gauged that there was at least a full load of laundry on their floor: half a dozen towels, several pairs of pants, oodles and oodles of socks and underwear, even some sheets and blankets and coats!

Now, illness often makes us terrible parents. We are much more likely to make the children fend for themselves at meals, to yell at them for trivial offenses, to let them do all sorts of things they shouldn’t because we are too tired to intervene. That didn’t happen this time. No, this time illness gave birth to parenting brilliance. I hatched a plan and carried it out the next day.

While lying in bed wishing I could breathe, I instructed the boys to get one of the empty hampers out of my bathroom. I then told them to gather all the clothing and other laundry from their floor and place them in the hamper. After checking their (lack of) thoroughness, I had the older one carry the hamper to the washing machine, load it, add detergent, start it.

When the machine finished, I called them both into the laundry room. I pointed the older one to the dryer and told him to clean the lint catcher. The younger, I told to take the basket from the top of the washer, place it on the floor, and pull all the laundry out of the washer into the basket.

At almost the same time, they each touched their respective items and… also at almost the same time… recoiled from the touch. Hal looked up and said, “Oh, it’s wet.” He then pushed the item back into the washer and prepared to close the door.
“No,” I said. “They are all wet. They’ve been washed and now they need to go into the dryer. Pull them into the basket.”

To the eleven year old trying to remove the lint without actually touching it, I said, “No, like this” and demonstrated how to do it. He still acted like he was touching raw sewage and didn’t get as much of it off as I would have, but he got it done.
After the six year old finished the arduous job of getting every single wet item out of the washer, I told him to pick up the basket and hand it to his brother. That’s when he discovered that a basket full of wet clothes is heavy. Too heavy for him to pick up, in fact. His brother took over and between the two of them, they got all the clothes in. I stopped them from shutting the door until they added a dryer sheet. I told them how to start it.

When the dryer finished, I watched from the recliner as they struggled to fold it all. I reminded them that I do that entire routine a minimum of four times every weekend and unless they just really enjoyed themselves, they should make sure they get their dirty clothes in the hamper next time.

They might remember. Or it might take some more lessons. But if their sister (who is responsible for her own laundry) is any indication, they will eventually decide a little extra effort when removing their clothes is worth not having to do the laundry.

Elite Family Laundry Club

We were away from home for nine days and got back home about midnight Saturday night.  Even though I had done 2 loads of laundry while at my mother-in-law’s house, there was still more to be done when we got home.  So I started a load Sunday afternoon.

And then I joined the elite family laundry club.

I was sitting at the dining room table playing Candy Crush while Hal watched Max Steel, Daddy (our primary driver the day before) took a nap, and the older two hung out at friends’ (that didn’t take long, did it?).  I heard water that didn’t match the tone of the show Hal was watching.  Daddy must be using the hall bathroom, I thought.  The water stopped.  Then it started again.

“Hal? What are you doing?” I asked.

“Watching Max Steel.”

The water stopped.

The water started again.

I got up to investigate and realized the sound was coming from the opposite end of the house.  As I tracked the sound toward the laundry room, it suddenly hit me what I’d done.  I rushed into the room and punched the pause button so the water would stop pumping out of the drain tube onto the window sill and floor.


Yes, I had followed in the illustrious footsteps of my daughter and husband.  Of course, I had a good excuse.  I had spent the last week doing laundry somewhere that I didn’t have to snake a drain hose out a window first.  Then again, they had good excuses too.  The husband rarely does the laundry – that’s my chore.  The daughter rarely does laundry either.  She should do it more often… but she doesn’t.

Ok, I thought. I need to do something about this.  We can’t keep mopping up water with towels and running fans all night.  The real solution would be to fix the drain line for the washing machine.  But I don’t realistically see that happening anytime soon.

So I came up with a solution.2014-08-10 23.27.26

The solution was simple enough: covering the power button with a contraption built from a milk jug cap and some duct tape.  In Sharpee, I drew a red stop sign and wrote “Drain Out Window!”  You can lift the bottom of the button cover to push the button.  The assumption is that this action will be enough of a reminder to check the hose.

I’d like to think I went all MacGyver on this, showing my ingenuity and ability to use materials on hand to solve a problem.  Unfortunately, I think it may be more along the lines of “You may be a redneck if…”

Oh, well.  At least no one is likely to pump the laundry room full of water again.

Laundry is for the Birds

Jane is responsible for doing her own laundry. She’s not particularly good at it. I’m sorry, I’m just being honest. She’s not. I’ve been told it’s rather common for folks her age. They stink. At doing laundry, and as a natural consequence, sometimes literally as well.

A little while ago she declared that she needed a second laundry hamper. She needed it to transport the clean laundry back to her room. You see, I have a hamper that serves to transport the clean laundry from the laundry room to the living room to be folded and she felt she needed the same luxury.

I said that she would just use it to store the clean clothes, as she was already doing with the single hamper, piling the dirty laundry on the floor. She insisted she wouldn’t do that. I recommended a collapsible hamper for her clean laundry transport, arguing that her room wasn’t big enough to hold two hampers. This way, during those mythical times when the laundry would be folded and put away, the hamper could be too. She didn’t want a collapsible hamper.

Lucky for her, her Daddy does the shopping and she got exactly the hamper she wanted. And then it all went down just like I said it would. Only worse. Check this out:

Any guesses which pile or hamper has the clean clothes?  Me neither.

Any guesses which pile or hamper has the clean clothes?

She left for summer camp Sunday. Saturday morning, we were having them pack so they could tell us what they needed us to pick up at Wal-Mart.  She told her Daddy that she needed socks and underwear.

He looked at the scene above.  “Isn’t this a pair of underwear?” he asked, picking up an article.

“Well, yes, but it’s dirty.”

“Uh-uh,” he said. “And there’s a sock over there.  I’m not buying you clothes when you have a mess like this.  Do your laundry and find enough clean pairs of socks and underwear.”

She then tried to convince me that the two towels in her room were clean because (I quote): “I’ve done laundry twice this month and they were in the first load I did.”  I managed to get clarification that she hadn’t used them since then which answered the question of where all the towels have gone.

She later went off on how she didn’t know where her Kansas City Royals hat was.  “It always sits right here on this shelf,” she claimed.

After she left, I braved her room to look for her volleyball shorts.  I thought they’d serve well as compression shorts under my hockey pants.  I foolishly looked in the chest of drawers first.  That’s where she keeps the clothes she can give away in a garage sale.  Oh, and a bunch of non-clothing items.  Oh, and that hat.  The one that *always* sits on the shelf.  I eventually found the shorts in the pile on the floor.  They smelled clean, I guess.  So the stuff on the floor is clean?

I don’t know.  And here’s the crazy part.  She’ll return Saturday afternoon and then leave for another camp first thing Sunday morning.  That’s a quick turn-around.  So her dad offered her the chance of a lifetime:

Put all your dirty clothes in our hamper and we’ll get them washed and folded for you.

I mean, what kind of a kid passes up an opportunity like that?!  Shoot!  College kids lug their clothes to their cars and haul them home for that.  All she had to do was walk across the hall.

The only clothing article of hers in our hamper is that pair of volleyball shorts I borrowed.  So now I wonder if I just wash all those clothes in her room or maybe pick through the piles to determine what smells bad or just wait and let her sort it out, risking her proceeding to the next camp smelling like a dumpster.

That last thought is winning the day so far.  I’ve spent enough time folding everyone else’s laundry.  If she can’t at least deliver the clothes to me, maybe I don’t need to hassle with it either.

Teenage Priorities… or… What I’d Rather Do Instead of Laundry

Jane is a very busy girl. It sometimes seems impossible for her to get everything done. This should be a great opportunity to learn about setting priorities. For some reason, however, I don’t think the teenage brain has yet developed enough to set reasonable priorities.

Take last night, for example. Jane had a tremendous amount of homework. I reminded her that there was also a lot of laundry waiting to be folded – laundry being her primary household chore. She also needed to clean up her mess on the dining room table from her murder diorama project.

“Ok,” she said. “I also plan to clean my room.”

“That’s a laudable goal since your room is a mess but I don’t think you have time for that tonight. You have a lot of homework, a lot of laundry, and the dining room table to clean. Those need to all be higher priorities for you.”

“I know.”

When I returned from my women’s group at church, the mess was still on the dining room table. The laundry was still waiting in baskets by the couch. And she was in her room.

I tried to open the door but she had shoved a dozen large blankets (previously used as a pallet during a sleepover) up against the door. She tried to wave me off. Instead of leaving, I poked my head in and said, “Don’t forget you’ve still got laundry and the dining room table.”

“Yes, I know. I’m almost done in here.”

“You really didn’t have time for this.”

“Are you saying that I didn’t need to clean my room?”

“Yes, it needed to be cleaned but not tonight. You had other chores you were told to do.”

“Ok. I’m almost done!”

At least half an hour later, I tried again. When I mentioned the laundry, she exclaimed, “Oh! I forgot about that!”

“Ok, so it’s twenty minutes past your bedtime and you said you planned to shower tonight. Daddy will not be happy with you if you don’t clean up your mess in the dining room. And there’s still the laundry.”

She finally went to bed after cleaning up her mess and taking a shower but without touching the laundry. The next morning, she walked into my room in her socked feet and said, “See! This is why I never clean my room. I can’t find my shoes!”

She never cleans her room, she says. I guess she means unless she has other, even less desirable chores to do. I wonder if she even noticed the irony of complaining indignantly about doing a chore she had been told not to do.