Hi Mum, is it OK to vacuum the sheets instead of washing them?
Letter #1 to the RSPCA:
Dear RSPCA people,
I know you mean well, but please stop putting pictures of cute puppies on your website. The constant whining and pleading that fills the house is making me tired, and also, we don't have a fence on one side of the house because the builder has been 'busy' for nine months, so we can't possibly get a dog.
Thank you for your co-operation in this matter,
Letter #2 to the RSPCA:
Dear RSPCA people,
Well, that wasn't fair, was it, posting that photo of the dog with the eyebrows? You knew I couldn't withstand the pleading, but you did it anyway, and you knew all about the fence situation, but you made me do it, driving the girls to the pound, 'just to look'. Oh, yes, all that innocent advertising about 'all creatures great and small' indeed, but WHAT ABOUT THE MOTHERS?
Yes, you know, the one who will end up doing all the work. I have a very bad feeling about this, and I am blaming you.
The Mother Who Will Be Doing All The Work
Text #1 to Builder:
I know you are extremely busy, but there is a puppy emergency, and we need a fence ASAP or the poor puppy will be trapped at the pound, and there are children who are pining.. Thx
Text #2 to Builder:
I know that it has just recently been Armistice Day, and I realise that you are keen to share your love of military history, and I concede that it is very educational, but I must insist that your transformation of my back yard into a replica of a WWI battlefield is possibly a misplaced enthusiasm. The children are now quite conversant with the slit trench, the redoubt, and the excellent reconstruction of the battle at Hill 60, and I would request that you return it to a state more resembling a suburban backyard than a campaign in the Somme. Thx.
Hello my lovelies. You may have noticed there have been no decluttering and cleaning updates. There is a reason for that - no decluttering or cleaning has been happening, you know, apart from normal bog-standard vaccuuming etc. Instead, I have been distracting myself from a looming existential crisis by re-reading all Dorothy Sayer's detective novels, a Terry Pratchett I hadn't read yet, borrowed from a friend, and an adorable series I discovered at the library (I couldn't resist the titles) by Alan Bradley. If you like Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Peter Wimsey and Inspector Hemingway, you will love Flavia de Luce. Set in post-war Britain, 11 year old Flavia is obsessed with Chemistry, principally poisons, and bicycles serenely around the tiny village of Bishop's Lacey, competently solving local crimes, which annoys the local police inspector no end. She possesses a vague aristocratic father, two deliciously evil sisters who are my favourite characters in the series, and is in cahoots with her father's competent man-servant, who is irresistibly reminiscent of Bunter in the Peter Wimsey novels. Such an entertaining way to avoid reality...
Which is what I am really doing, because, ye gods, reality is terrifying. Here I am, and for twenty three years, all of my adult life, I have been a particular person, married, with kids, and that is who I have been, wife, stay-at-home mum. No complaints or regrets - I am so glad I have been able to watch my kids grow up.. and now, although my life is still inextricably entwined with theirs, the other half of my identity - wife - is gone. And you know, no regrets there either. I have spent quite a long time feeling crushed by a huge burden of guilt, regret and fear of the future, but now I'm done with that (well, I say this now, but of course, those particular emotions tend to return to haunt us at inconvenient moments..). However, that enormous bustling empire that occupied the 'Wife' section of the mental map of my personal universe, is now a void. It is eerily quiet. It is a heart of darkness, waiting..
It has taken some time, I must admit, to gently, or not-so-gently dismantle that empire. It did not go down without a fight. For twenty three years that particular continent has been the scene of such triumphs, such spectacular failures, extraordinary experiments, epic battles, quiet contentment, fear, wars, rumours of wars, joy, hope, resentment, dark conspiracies and, finally, the decline and fall and quiet march into the dark. For some time the empire didn't realise it was dead, and like the sad remnants of other dying empires, still kept trying to administrate territories over which it had no jurisdiction.
It has been the disentangling of those last areas of disputed territories which have been the trickiest, that blurred border between 'Wife' and 'Mother'. That area where 'Wife' may have been, somewhat unwisely in retrospect, micro-managing the relationship between the Dad and his kids. It is a fine line. It is a very easy, rookie mistake to make. It is much harder to let go, and trust that the Dad in question (who is a fine, kind, loving Dad), will go on and have fine, kind, loving relationships with his kids, without (gasp) the constant advice, interference and beneficent nagging of his well-meaning ex-wife. The trouble is, you see, that 'Mother knows best'. I don't know why more people can't see that I would actually be the perfect candidate for Leader of the Universe, because I am clearly always right.
But, by exercising careful self-control, I am beginning to let go the need to control everyone in my family for their own good, which leaves, of course, that big, black void of emptiness where the myriad concerns, anxieties and other manifestations of much of my mental energy was once located. I can understand why newly single people rebound into new relationships as quickly as they can. It is quite terrifying contemplating that empty space. Because do you know what? That space could be filled with anything. I could let it be filled up by the children, but I feel they occupy quite enough of my headspace as it is. I could fill it up with another man, or a demanding occupation, or I could use it to study Italian Renaissance poetry or small engine and appliance maintenance.
Or I could journey into the heart of that dark continent and explore what is already there. Existential malaise indeed. Who exactly am I, bereft of half the identity that has defined me for half my life?
You see why I am reading detective novels? It is all so much simpler when somebody else decides whodunnit and all the loose ends are neatly tied up.
To tell the truth I am getting a little bored with decluttering and spring cleaning. But no matter. We are not doing this because it is fun, we are doing it because clean and tidy is worth more to us than the fleeting pleasures of lolling in the garden with a good book. Hang on, is it really? Well, let's just say, we will be so absolutely pleased and smug as we loll in the garden with a good book while also knowing we are unlikely to contract a respiratory disease from the mould spores in the bathroom. Also, we will be able to find that pesky last umbrella when it comes on to rain and we have one chapter to go. Yay us.
So this week - the bathroom. Bathroom cupboards are appalling places for clutter to accumulate, almost all of it absolute rubbish, because we all use up products and throw the bottle back in the cupboard. We also collect samples and tiny bottles which proliferate and possibly breed under the sink. And what about those other products that seemed like a good idea at the time, but really weren't, and have been languishing since 2004 because we spent good money on them and can't bear to throw them out?
The solution to all of this is a) a bin bag, and b) a steely determination not to let any of this back in our house. Truth is I use about five make-up products and three skin care products. The girls might use a couple more. We buy the same shampoo week in, week out, and really, what we would appreciate more than endless choice, is a lovely clear space where we can find everything we want early in the morning without tipping everything out of the cabinet to get to it.
Luckily, a couple of months ago I cleared out a couple of years' worth of disgusting detritus, so this week I will only need to go decluttering lite. The laundry, however, is another prospect altogether. Ugh. It is full of messy things that I have just dumped there, plus lots of containers of mostly used up laundry liquid etc, that have been 'draining' for about two weeks now (think all that laundry liquid is at the bottom yet?) It will require a major overhaul. Also, between the laundry and the bathroom is what we call the 'back porch', but it is basically a mudroom that our back door opens out of. It houses an old wardrobe full of coats, hats, dirty shoes, umbrellas and shopping bags. There are baskets of hot water bottles, spare light globes and string on top of the wardrobe, and also an army of noxious spray cans to kill every bug known to man, because The Man is not a nature lover. Ants, spiders and flies make him very cross. All of this needs some attention. When The Boy was young I knitted him a fabulous gnome hat. Recently he went to a 'Bad Hat' party, and thought the gnome hat would be perfect, completely disregarding my delicate snowflake feelings. Anyway, I was doubtful he would even find the hat, but there it was, at the bottom of the hat basket in back porch closet, not having been moved in the fourteen or so years since he last wore it. So I think it be Time.
Now cleaning. Mainly the bathroom ceiling. Mould. And dead bugs. I think I will offer Rosy significant bribes to climb the ladder and solve that problem for me. Plus, the laundry window is also pretty mouldy. Should do something about that.
That all might keep me out of trouble this week. After that, I think I will consider myself done, and start concentrating on finishing planting the garden and considering Christmas.
Tell me about your cleaning and decluttering adventures this week..
Ok, so first we have the Not Green and Thrifty section to get out of the way. This morning I emptied all the dead food out of the fridge. Oh dear, oh dear. Report card reads 'Could do better'. Note to self. Just stop buying cauliflower. No-one will eat it, no matter what you do to it.
Chopped up a big bunch of spinach from the school vegie garden into the lasagne - and, while we are on that subject, during my nana nap this afternoon I had a sudden vision of how to make bechamel sauce in the blender. This is how I always make custard, so I thought I would try it with white sauce as well. Worked like a dream (well, it would all have been much better if I hadn't dropped the flour container on the floor and had to do significant sweeping). So I put in the milk (600ml), melted the butter (60g), added that, then the flour (60g) and whizzed it all up in the blender, then whisked it in the saucepan as per usual, adding grated cheese (handful), nutmeg, pepper and salt at the end. It was much quicker than making a roux, and I imagine it wouldn't be as likely to go lumpy either. So, cooking experiment success story. Although it has just occurred to me that it makes more dishes. I love the dish washer.
In the last two weeks I have been given two cartons of eggs (thank you Karlin and Cindy), so we are enjoying our home laid breakfasts:
Gorgeous nana crockery from the op shop.
I have discovered there is nothing more fun than to dip asparagus spears in a soft boiled egg while reading murder mysteries at breakfast time. The easiest way to have the egg and asparagus ready at the same moment is to pop the asparagus into the egg water when it starts boiling. They will both be ready two and a half minutes later.
The weather here in balmy Tasmania is absolutely freezing. I am sure it is snowing on our nearest mountain right now. It is sleeting here. The vegie garden is hanging on, but kind of sulking a bit. I don't blame it. We are trying to be very good and wear all the layers instead of turning on the heaters, and I hope we are winning at the battle to save electricity. Our tumble dryer broke a couple of months ago. I haven't replaced it, because with only four people living here now it is possible to dry all our washing inside. Although really, I generally just hang it outside anyway and cross my fingers. The great thing about our weather is that there are usually enough breaks between rain to dry washing. So far, from a combination of luck and planning there have always been dry school uniforms, although the girls have had to wear their school socks twice on a number of occasions. I tell them hardship is good for character development:)
The reward for walking to the gym this week has been adorable fat pink crab apple buds. I have also actually walked into town a couple of times and not died, so that was good. I also got to appreciate the giant chestnut trees in the parks, with their elegant white candle flowers. Love, love. While I was walking I casually broke off a few geranium cuttings that were poking through front fences. I popped them into a glass of water on the kitchen bench, and so far have only one growing roots. But one free plant is better than none, non?
I have declared this week Rhododendron Appreciation Week, because they are at their glorious peak at the moment, veritable cascades of blossom in parks and gardens. My favourites are the white with pale pink edges. Monday is a public holiday, and I have planned to meet up with friends in a local park which has an entire hill covered with rhododendrons. We shall eat home baked goodies and stroll around the rhododendron forest appreciating them with enthusiasm.
Being thrifty is so easy if you love gardens. You get to walk everywhere and appreciate lovely gardens, a grand day out is appreciating gardens in beautiful free public parks, you get to share plants with friends and make whole new plants out of tiny twigs from people's front gardens, because nature doesn't ask you to pay for any of her bounty. Today I picked a salad of self-sown lettuce, which has been feeding us for about two months now. I also picked rocket which has been self-seeding between paving stones, and added self-sown parsley, and new little broad bean and snow pea leaves, which I grew from saved seed. Thank you nature. Keep it up:)
Tired, but determinedly cheerful mother of four. One grown up son (The Boy), one grown up daughter (The Girl), two girls at home, Rosy (18) and Posy (14). Trying to buy a little less, make a little more, live a little lighter, not mess up the children too much.. and now extra frugal adventures with Partner Paul..