Spring cleaning and family togetherness

We’re a busy family, and so like most busy families, we like to use the weekends to reconnect with each other in light of our busy lives. This is generally accomplished via sleeping late and eating pancakes. (Ahhhh—nothing says unity like carbs, am I right?) And then every now and then we try to do something special together.

Saturday was VERY special. I was so far behind on my work, I kicked the entire family out of the house and told them not to come back until I was done.

Ha! I’m just kidding. I would never do that. I mean, how could they possibly know when I’m done, when even I have no long it will take? No, I kicked them out of the house so that they could have a nice day of bonding. That happened to include four+ hours of driving to retrieve Otto’s broken car. And I totally wish I was kidding about that part.

Remember Otto and the Great Car Search? That was almost two months ago. The car came home and parts were ordered and Otto fixed it all up. Except. It still had a problem. A potential Big Problem. One that the guy who sold him the car said he’d be happy to take care of for him. Just as SOON as he could get to it.

It took him a while to get to it. Also, he lives two hours away. And this is why it’s a GREAT IDEA to buy a car so far away from home. Ahem. Anyway, the car was finally ALL FIXED and Otto and the kids went to go get it on Saturday. And I stayed home in my bathrobe and worked.

So they were feeling well-bonded, I’m sure, after their adventure, and I was feeling significantly less twitchy, having gotten some stuff done, and so Saturday night was a delightful affair involving Chinese food and DVDs. We know how to par-tay.

On Sunday—wait. Did I mention that it has rained here for a week straight? Because it has. And that’s great, because of the drought and everything, and also because my garden has gone NUTS; the tomato plants have already doubled in size, and Monkey’s cabbage is unfurling at an alarming rate. It’s WONDERFUL. Except for the part where no one has been outside to play in a week, and there are only so many movies you can watch before the urge to just poke your sibling a little bit becomes overwhelming, apparently. Anyway, this is by way of explanation as to why on Sunday we decided to dangle the carrot of a movie at the theater in front of the children.

They took the bait, and the parameters were set: If we were able to clean out their closets and dressers before it was time to go, we would go. If not, they would both be set on fire and hurled off the nearest suspension bridge. (I like to think I’m a harsh but fair taskmistress.) Successful completion of the task before us would mean an afternoon viewing of Race to Witch Mountain.

I started in Chickadee’s room, which may have been a mistake.

Chickadee’s dresser was positively overflowing. In a former life, I’m pretty sure Chickadee was a mother to ten or twelve children. I can think of no other explanation for her insistence on saving every piece of clothing she’s ever owned. And as much as it pains her when I sweep into her room and start emptying her dresser drawer by drawer, there comes a time when even she has to admit that those size 7 bathing suits really aren’t doing anyone any good in here.

Every year I do this. And every year I find something that hasn’t fit her for several years. I think clothing spontaneously generates in her room.

We’re having a fun new dimension added, these days, as well. I’ve always purchased clothing ahead for both kids—I pick up stuff on clearance and then put it up on the shelves in the closet or whatever—and I’ve always found this a very handy wato operate. HOWEVER, as puberty’s changes to both her body and attitude creep up, I’m finding that this no longer works as well as it used to. To wit: Shirts can no longer be baggy. Unless they are MEANT to be baggy, of course, in which case it’s fine. But otherwise, no. (No, I didn’t drink at all during this process. But I probably should’ve.) And Chickadee is a skinny little thing, so GUESS HOW MANY BAGGY SHIRTS we found while cleaning? Right.

(Also, here in Georgia she’s become a big fan of things which are sleeveless. Which is fine. But where I might’ve once told her to get over the whole BAGGY issue with her beloved tank tops and such, she’s old enough now that, yeah, those beautiful dresses I bought on clearance are gapping at the armpits and it’s inappropriate, fine, they will NEVER FIT, please give me a moment to pull myself together and not think about how much money I wasted assuming you might someday be larger than a twig.)

Pants are also a tricky issue, as even the slims are sometimes too wide, and even the pants that mostly fit may gap a bit in the waist, which is a TRAGEDY, even if you happen to own… wait, let me finish pulling everything out… right, okay, EVEN IF YOU OWN TWELVE BELTS. I have never owned twelve belts, not over the course of my entire LIFE. But my daughter does, and that’s AWESOME because any pair of pants which requires the use of a belt is a pair of pants she will surely refuse to wear.

Also, it’s a major tragedy that I won’t allow her to keep the three-sizes-too-small shoes she wore when Otto and I got married, you know, as a MEMENTO, because the dress, purse, dried flowers, hair baubles, and necklace Otto gave her ARE NOT ENOUGH MEMORABILIA. Those shoes were the MOST SPECIAL and WONDERFUL and she LOOOOOVES them. And I am a horrible ogre, not recognizing their inherent value, even though they came from Payless and I’m pretty sure I let her wear them out biking several times and they’re stinky, falling apart, and covered with grass stains.

but even aside from ALL OF THAT, we were doing okay (really!) until we got to her closet. Because the closet had been turned into Ye Olde Crap Repository. And once we’d finished sorting clothes and trying on and making “sell” and “donate” piles, I left Chickadee to clean out all of the non-clothing items she’d thrown in her closet.

She set to work and I moved on to Monkey’s room. He was very eager to help me out, though he didn’t have much of an explanation about why the floor of HIS closet was covered with various papers. I sent him downstairs for a trash bag and he began sorting through papers as I worked through his clothes.

Things in his room were much less dramatic, unless you want to count the fact that I decided to get rid of several pairs of his shorts simply because they were size 5T. They still fit him, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. He’s NINE. The poor child should not have toddler-size clothing in his dresser.

At one point he’d thrown away an entire stack of papers (yay!) and hefted the garbage bag up on his shoulder as though it weighed a ton, even though it wasn’t even a quarter full. “Well, this is pretty much packed,” he declared. “I’ll just take it downstairs to trash can!” Nice try, dude. We had a little chat about “finishing the job we’ve started” and “not wasting trash bags” and “don’t make me start yelling about wire hangers.”

His clothing was sorted, refolded, and put away. My triumph for the day was finding a pair of sandals I’d bought him three years ago, sure they’d fit the following summer. He’s finally big enough to wear them. (Allow me to introduce you to my son… Tom Thumb!)

I left him cleaning out some of his “treasure bins,” and went back to check on Chickadee.

Her closet had exploded. At least, that’s what it looked like. And when my head threatened to follow suit, she hastily escorted me out of her room, assuring me that she had just taken everything out so that she could get organized, and it was fine, ALL FINE, she’d be done soon.

At the designated time I checked both rooms—and they were clean—and we went to the movies. Race to Witch Mountain is a fabulous remake of the movie I loved as a kid, only this version is EVEN BETTER because it stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s biceps. And also his cheekbones. There’s also a couple of flashes of his abs. I’m pretty sure the plot revolves around exactly how tightly his t-shirt molds to his torso, but I may have missed a few other minor story lines.

Otto and I shared a bucket of popcorn and the kids shared a box of Raisinets. A grand time was had by all!

Later that night, we had a nice dinner, discussed the week to come, addressed a few issues from the previous week, and sent the kids to bed at a reasonable time.

I was bidding Monkey goodnight when I realized that the door to the extra closet in his room was ajar. I closed it. Then my mother’s intuition siren went off, and I opened it again.

Inside the closet was three bags, full of everything that had previously been strewn on the floor of Chickadee’s closet.

So now I have three more bags of stuff to donate to Goodwill. And several new gray hairs. (Look, I give her points for ingenuity, I do. But… no. And after freaking out about it, she pulled herself together and told me to take the movie ticket money out of her allowance, because she had not met the conditions to go. I thought that was pretty impressive. Not as impressive as if she would just DO WHAT SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO, but still.)

This morning I gave Chickadee a big hug and a kiss and she hugged me back and said, “You know, this unconditional love thing is pretty cool.” I tried not to laugh. Monkey observed this exchange and commented, “I’m never putting anything on the floor of my closet ever again. It just seems complicated.”

Yep. Just another regular weekend.


  1. Ani

    I think I won’t put anything on the bottom of my closet either. it does seem complicated.


  2. exile on mom street

    Do children do what they’re supposed to do?


  3. Karishma

    hahaha your children are adorable. and it would seem that chickie’s approaching the age where…. she must actually go to the store to try stuff on. i’m sorry. puberty sucks.

  4. Megan

    I’m trying hard, oh so hard, NOT to explode over the state of the bedrooms in my house. The worst part is… that includes mine… darn it! Eye is twitching again. Right, no matter how late I get home tonight It Will Be Spotless!

  5. Randi

    Ha ha ha ha – oh that Chickadee. She’s always good for a laugh!

    But don’t call him “The Rock” now – he’s a serious actor, dontcha know? ;)

    At least you didn’t have to listen your neighbor swearing at you and not giving your dog back this weekend!

  6. Mama Bear

    I hate the going to the store and having to actually try on things stage. Miss 10 has just reached that milestone. Besides the trying on, that means she also gets to help pick things out, and if anyone is indecisive, it’s her. Clothes shopping is torturous. That plus it pains my heart that she is now fitting in size zero/short clothing from the “teen” stores that Miss 15 is able to shop at. So prices for her clothing- way up.

  7. Lylah

    Um…. I may be related to your daughter. Just sayin’.

  8. Aimee

    Heh. I agree with Monkey — it does sound complicated.

  9. Andrea

    LOL…I’m glad I’m not the only one with such clothing discoveries in their children’s rooms. My son will be 9 yrs old last month, and I too had to get rid of a size 5 shorts. (To be fair–Children’s Place bottoms run big on him and they DID fit him in November when we went to FL. Notsomuchanymore.)
    We have yet to do the spring clothes-trying-on-spectacle. I dread it. He dreads it. A friend of mine has already given us some hand-me-downs (my son is short and hers is tall) so I need to get on it.
    I fear that I need to drag him to the store to try on some clothes this year. I think I’ll wait until I get his birthday month coupon from Children’s Place. Urgh.

  10. RuthWells

    Lord have mercy. Chickie is going to keep you ON YOUR TOES.

  11. Half Assed Kitchen

    It just seems complicated.

    Heh. That Monkey. Always putting things in perspective.

  12. Sara

    Your daughter and mine were separated at birth. A couple of years apart. With different mothers. But still–Twins to the Core.

  13. Summer

    My son, the FIRST GRADER, still owns and fits into a pair of size 24 Months shorts. When he hit kindergarten, I carefully snipped off the rubbery patch featuring Cookie Monster’s face and let him keep wearing them. I’ve finally retired them, not because they’re too tight, but because they’re now ridiculously short and expose too much scrawny thigh.

    He also still wears the navy blue shorts I bought him to wear with his preschool uniform. Size 3T. And the stitched-up folds I crafted to make them small enough for his 3-year-old waist have never been removed.

    I like to think of it as a family tradition. I remember being 9 and wearing a pair of wee pink shorts, size 18 Months. Of course, this was in the early 80s, the We Wear Short Shorts Era. It’s not a fashion statement I want my son to make in 2009. OR EVER.

  14. Keyona

    I have gray hairs just reading it. Goodness. I am so not looking forward to the tween age.

  15. Amy-Go

    They help you clean out their closets? REALLY? When can you get here to teach mine that trick? Because right now I’m feeling quite jealous of you…Tricksy Chickie and all!

  16. mamalang

    I swear our daughters must have been separated at birth. We just went through this exercise a couple of weeks ago. But I only dangled the clean room carrot (and the I’ll gladly make it all go away one as well…)

  17. Lucinda

    I buy clothes ahead of time too–clearance, Goodwill, etc. But I stopped having great luck with it by the time my daughter was the tender age of 5. She is not only very opinionated about what she will and will not wear, but has a sensitivity to the way it feels (sadly she gets that from me). So many of the clothes I buy a year or two ahead of time, never get worn. But the clothes she is comfortable with are so expensive if bought new that I figure I’m still saving money even if we never wear a good portion. It’s part of the cost, even if it does drive me crazy!!!!!

  18. Tracy

    Boy, how I remember those days. I couldn’t wait until my daughter was old enough to be dropped off at the Mall and picked up afterwards. The biggest disagreements we ever had were over clothes. Of course, now that she is making and spending her own money, she shops clearance. =o)

  19. Katherine

    My younger son went to kindergarten in size 18 mo shorts also. He probably could have worn them in 1st grade too, but they were a bit on the short side. Even now at 10, he still has some size 5 shorts in his drawer. My feeling is, if they fit, he can wear them. Besides, how do I know whether they just mislabeled them?

    My 13 yo son has just hit the awkward in-between boys and mens size. ARRRGGGHHH! I can’t seem to bring home ANY pants that will fit him. He will have to go shopping with me and try things on next fall (or he’ll be wearing shorts all winter). I just hope he’s in a size the stores carry by fall… In the meantime, I’m doing laundry a bit more often so he doesn’t have to wear shorts in mid 30’s weather (here in the south – unheard of).

  20. MomCat

    Clothes shopping with a daughter is always a hoot if you play this game: go up to an item which is prominently featured on a rack in the front of the store and exclaim how cute it is. Daughter will beeline for something else. Mine automatically despises whatever it is that I’m cooing over, unless her friends look at it too, then it’s maybe a little bit okay. If she actually does like it, no worry about actually buying it, just peek at the price tag and have a conniption. Girls her age just gotta have a wardrobe that is at least 90% from a*ercrom*ie (richwhitekidsrus). I recommend the clearance racks there.

  21. Barbara

    Great story. Long. I forget what I want to say by the end. Let me scroll up…

    Oh, yeah.

    How did Otto go get the car with two kids? I mean, did Chickadee drive one of the cars back?

    And, screen calls again. Set the kids on fire!? You blog dangerously, Friend.

  22. Andrea

    Any surprise Chickadee has an affection for keeping her shoes (no matter the size). I don’t know you except through your blogs but reading them makes me suspect the shoe-apple doesn’t fall far in the family tree…

    Good bribery!

  23. Celeste

    Just wait, Mir… my 12-year-old daughter pretty much refuses to try on clothes at the store. Periodically I dig my heels in and say, “Fine. Then we’re not buying it.” However, the worst part is, I let her pick her clothes (within reason) and then we get them home, she takes the tags off, and subsequently refuses to wear them. Huh?!?

    Oh, and yeah, then you still have the visits from Aunt Flo to look forward to. Aunt Flo, whose visits to the daughter turn ME into a gibbering idiot. Cuz now we have a total elimination of any semblance of rational behavior. Ahhh… good times!

  24. Jan

    I had to remove my 3 year-old’s size 6 months swimsuit from the rotation after daddy took one look at him in it and asked him if those were his legs or if he was riding a chicken.

    They still fit fine, though.

  25. Pam

    My daughter is nearly 20 and not only can I not see the floor of her closet, I can’t see the carpet in her room either. She tells me it’s an open-plan filing system. But I’m sure Chickadee’s not going to be like that, Mir, so PUT THAT GUN DOWN!

  26. Otto

    Hey … my car isn’t broken anymore … it runs just fine.

    Okay, so the seats need to be worked on so the short ones can get in the back seat. And it has no radio. And the passenger side lock only works from the inside … but it runs just fine.

    And it looked very good behind the truck coming home in the monsoon. Although I kept wishing that yuppie would stop tailgating … and then had to remind myself it was just my car on a trailer …


  27. Michelle

    Whenever I read your blog, I feel like I am getting a glimpse into the world of the most intuitive and closest to perfect mother in the world. I’ll be amazed if your children don’t grow up to be politicians or celebrities or gurus or something.

  28. ellbee

    I think I mentioned this a few posts ago, but I was JUST like Chickie. My parents actually had to resort to REMOVING my closet doors to keep me from hiding random room detritus inside. And not to give you a reason to drink, but I may or may not have recently stuffed an entire pile of clean shirts into a drawer because I didn’t have time to hang them and my husband was quacking at me to put away my laundry.
    Ahem. I’m sure Chickie is a much faster learner than I am.

  29. Katie in MA

    Monkey cracks me up. He’s already a Guy-in-Training!

  30. megs

    I spent the morning organizing my one and a half year old daughter’s closet and getting out the 2T clothes. I also buy clothes early and on clearance. Thanks for the heads up that this won’t always work…she is also a Virgo like me and I remember telling my mother at the age of five that I could fold clothes neater than she could. Oh, what I have to look forward to!!

  31. Audi

    I have two kids and both have the same problem with fitting into clothes. My daughter is 9 and at the end of last summer we did the clothes clean out and I found a pair of shorts that were a 4T. I got rid of them for the fact that they were so little. My son has the same problem. 11 years old and weighs 58 lbs soaking wet. Clothes shopping for them is a nightmare!

  32. TC

    I bought N some size 5-6 shorts at The Children’s Place the other day (on sale, natch) because the 3T and 4T shorts he insists are his FAVORITES wearing were starting to get a little, well, short. Em looked at me when he tried them on and said, “They’re cute. And I’m sure he’ll grow into them someday, Mom.”

    He’s 8. Sigh.

  33. mama speak

    Can’t relate at all to Monkey’s clothes thing. Well, I could w/Little when she was, well, little, but since then both my girls grow like weeds. (And I only buy them organic milk & produce I swear!) My 5YO is wearing size 7, easily and my almost 3YO has been in size 3 for quite some time and I’m sure will be in a size 4 before the warm weather really gets going again.

    I walk around muttering, “No more babies in my house, only big girls.” Now Little walks around telling me that. *sigh*

  34. Colleen

    My kids and I went to see Race to Witch Mountain a few weeks ago. We have the originals on DVD and they love them. I loved that Tony and Tia made appearances and the other references to the original. I also loved that one of the news reporters was Natty Gann (my favorite Disney movie ever).

    Anyway, all of this aside, when friends ask me how the movie was, my answer is always, “The Rock is in it.” Say no more.

  35. Kate Setzer Kamphausen

    Oh my God. Between your kids and Joshilyn Jackson’s kids, I think I might just be brave enough to try one or two of my own. Y’all’s kids are so amazingly super fantastic!!!

    Um. But don’t hold me to that, okay?

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