Cleaning and the Average Family

This weekend was brought to you by the word ‘dirt’. I knew it was going to be one of those days when I’d washed my hands 5 times already and still hadn’t had breakfast or dressed. I’m not suffering from OCD – I just have mucky daughters, the youngest of whom also has a track record of blocking toilets when left to wipe her bum unsupervised… Give me strength!

Actually, did I tell you about the last blockage? I don’t think so. Anyway, this was back in February, while we were renting the enormous farmhouse that let in water from the living room lintel and that used a million gallons of oil to keep it warm for an hour. So… we were getting ready to move out and were making sure that everything was clean, tidy and in as good repair as it was when we moved in. I was weeding outside the dining room window and noticed what looked like shredded toilet roll on the patio. Um… I followed the toilet roll trail all the way to a drainpipe. With an overflowing drain. Oh-oh… I set The Boss to work with a plunger and some rubber gloves. The Boss toiled for an hour and filled a bin-bag with yuck. But the blockage still wasn’t cleared. So we tried the old synchronised flushing routine that usually works. Nothing. And worse, the toilet that was fairly blocked when we first moved in (so we’d just stopped using it) was now totally blocked. Oh hell. The Boss got out his long prodding rod things that I’d laughed at him buying, years ago. He prodded. He poked. He swore a lot. He thanked his lucky stars for another bout of sinusitis. He filled another bin bag of ming. But it was *still* blocked. He managed to open drain covers and haul out more toilet roll. Yet another bin bag of used, shredded toilet roll (thank God I’m so bleach-friendly – at least the toilet roll was bleached white…). He decided to nip over the fence and ask our lovely landlord if he had any longer rods we could borrow. Lovely Landlord came straight over and offered to help. For the rest of the afternoon they poked and hauled and dry-boaked; they retched and gagged and used a high-power hose. Eventually… hallelujah!… the blockage was hauled out. The Boss reckons they hoiked out years of toilet roll, from long before our time, but Mini Minx must have been responsible for at least half. Anyway, as they were clearing up and hosing down the patio again, Lovely Landlord looked up the drainpipe. His face was a picture as he spotted shredded toilet roll all over the wall, 3 storeys up. I have no idea how the hell it got up there. Somehow the blockage must have been all the way up the drainpipe… and somehow forced its way out… under pressure?! I’m so very glad we fixed it ourselves!

Right, so, now you know why Mini has been told to call a parent when she poos, and only to wipe under supervision. Occasionally she doesn’t bother, and occasionally I get to fish out an entire roll of toilet paper that hasn’t flushed away. Meh! So yeah, my hands get washed a lot.

Going to end in tears EVERY time

Going to end in tears EVERY time

That weekend we set the kids to work, washing the cars. Well, it’s only slave labour if they realise it’s not a game. I never wash the car and drive down tractor tracks most days. You can imagine the mess… After 2 hours of soapy graft and toil, it still needed a proper clean. At least all 3 helper-girls were still talking to each other. And as Chief Wielder of Hose, Maxi didn’t get too much hassle from her sisters at all. Funny that.

I DID wash my hands! Oh, ok, I might have missed a tiny bit...

I DID wash my hands! Oh, ok, I might have missed a tiny bit…

Minger Minx

Minger Minx

Still, if only we’d waited to clean the cars till the next day – the kids decided to make mud-pies in the garden. At our last home, with its sandy soil, mud-pies were innocuous and cleaned up easily; we discovered the hard way that the clay, non-draining soil here is a different kettle of fish altogether. And worse, it stains. I wonder how quickly Midi would have been cleaned up had we hosed her down first? Oh and those shoes in the picture? They’re her school shoes. Yes. Exactly. I think me calming down enough to take a photo is what saved her life.

On Sunday The Boss did a little DIY on the girls’ bikes. I still haven’t published the draft post from Easter, when Mini went from her balance bike to a 2-wheeler with *no* stablisers in 5 minutes flat, but she needed her seat post lengthened already. And it involved lots of technical engineering work (spanner, little hammer, and BFO hammer). After The Boss had footered around with it, he left a load of metal shavings on the drive. As both cars are parked up there, and all 3 girls spend a lot of the evenings racing their bikes there, he decided to clean it up pretty thoroughly. (No, it’s nothing to do with me being a dragon – how could you accuse me of that?!). He has an old Dyson liberated from a skip, whose parts have been salvaged from various town dumps.


Cleaning up those pesky metal filings

So it’s a real Trigger’s Broom of a vacuum cleaner – none of the original parts, but still going strong. It lives in the garage to hoover up wood dust and chippings from The Boss’s workbench. But no: Sunday tea-time, The Boss thinks it’s a smart idea to plug it in and hoover the drive-way. Back and forth, round and round. He hoovered up dust, metal, stones, grit, insects, grass and dirt. And any lingering ideas amongst our neighbours that we are a normal family.


Weds 16 May 2012

It’s been a rollercoaster of a week and today’s been no different. I’m editing a post about cancer that I may still delete, yet. Especially because the whole long hand-wringy post boils down to “Lovely friends: stop getting it, ok?”  I was also going to make this post a reflective one, but sod it: here’s what happened, with no tarting around.

Mini Minx woke the entire house at 6.45am, complaining loudly about the stench wafting through from the litter tray that Foster Cat had missed. We could have all gone in a grump, but The Boss retrieved the morning by cooking up 2 frying pans of blueberry pancakes and having coffee on the table by the time I staggered down with an armful of Minx clothes. It took me so long because I had to wade through 20+ sheets of paper that Maxi and Midi had shredded into confetti-sized pieces. For fun. Which obscured the carpet and all the tiny, jaggy, ouchy toy-pieces they’d left there to ambush my bare feet.

Still, with happy, full tummies we got out the door to school 2 minutes early. Only to hit a blast of icy wind off the sea that caused 2 almost-instantaneous skin splits in my fingers (Met Office: “Feels like 0 degC” – you’re not kidding!). Then Foster Cat managed to escape out the front door while Maxi and Midi faffed around with who was “In Charge” of stopping him getting out. He’d follow the kids to school and get lost / run over. The neighbours must have been wetting themselves at me trying to grab that wily old cat; he would wait, calmly licking a paw while I feigned a nonchalent stroll up to him, then bounced off a millisecond before I grabbed him. So I ignored him and strode down the hill. He zig-zagged down. When we were twice the distance past the point where Killer Cat bottles it, hisses and scuttles off home, I realised he was going to follow us all the way to school. So I about-turned, marched back up the hill with 3 giggling minxes and a perplexed cat, back in the front door, swearing all the time, and invoked the dread weapons of the rattling packet of Go-Cat in one hand and the cat-nip mouse in the other. Safely trapped back in the house, I swept back down that stupid, pot-holed, hateful road again.

We made the bell and no more!

On the way back up that blasted hill, my day got lots better – the postman handed me a box with 18 packets of crisps in it: my runner’s-up prize for a wee review I wrote about a good kids’ day out.

Opening my emails, it got better still: Tesco baby magazine wanted to include a quote of mine in their Autumn edition, and could I supply a photo? Yesssss! Retribution against the minxes would be mine! My mum laughed long and hard at my teenage embarrassment at being snapped for the local newspaper naked on the beach aged 3 with my siblings. Similarly, I chose a very cheesy pic of my girls that would definitely induce future teenage cringe. Oh, I cannot wait!

After that, the trend was downward: Mini pooed her leggings, went ballistic at not being allowed to wear Big Girl Pants, bit Midi and spat at the cats. Midi stropped at being bored, sprayed every surface with water and smeared them with a wet, greasy, hairy rag she’d found lurking in a cupboard. Then in a fit of excitement she threw open the hall door and smashed Foster Cat’s food- and water-bowls against the wall – water everywhere. On already-rapidly-warping wood. Sheesh.

With Midi safely in nursery burning off some energy for a few hours, I went round a friend’s house for coffee, cake and to let Mini play with other children. I grabbed something to take with me and Mini cooed: “Ooooooo, treat! Chocolate treat!” See? I don’t stuff them full of rubbish food at all.

The playdate went well, but was over all too soon. When I realised that I’d just tried to put Mini’s jacket on myself, I figured it was time to put the car-keys down and step away from all machinery and sharp objects. And have another coffee.

Tea-time was the usual manic fluster of doing too many things at the same time. Right at the worst possible moment (ie the grill was still hot, dinner had just been put on the table, Foster Cat was scraping at the window on his hind-paws to get let in, Mini was on the rampage), Midi pulled her usual tea-time stunt. With a twist:

“I done a poooo!” she sang, proud of her latest otter. I helped her clean up and flushed. Then yelled as the water backed up and the poo looked like it was going to leap up and attack us. Maxi had blocked the toilet with her usual ‘use an entire roll to dab up a single drop of wee on the seat’ before Midi had used it. I stormed downstairs to find Mini picking out the grated carrot from her lamb pasta and spitting it at the cat. I could have screamed. I could have shouted. I could have sworn or smacked. Instead I strode to the cupboard and poured a glass of red wine and a biiiig block of cheap chocolate.

It helped 🙂

The Boss is Somewhat Traumatised

See, darling? You’re supposed to stand *on* the board. Like this man

Poor J – he’s been through the wars a bit.

 I persuaded him last night to help me finish painting the hall, so we’d be finished faster and could settle down to watch Dr Who in peace, this side of midnight (last of the old romantics, us).  So he took the brush, I got the roller, and off we zoomed.  Just as we were finishing, I heard a yelp, a thud, then a bunch of other yelps and thuds: The Boss had fallen down the stairs.  I found him collapsed in a sprawl with his painting tray still held aloft, for all the world like a tray of martinis.  He was so scared of dropping white paint on the carpet that he’d managed to surf down on his bum.  His buttock bruise was most impressive, as was the fact he’d given himself whiplash.
In The Olden Tymes, when I was young and carefree, I’d regularly trash ironing boards surfing on them (or on them on stairs) when I’d had a sherbet or two.  I sure didn’t get whiplash.  Bless…
Today we did a big B&Q shop to fix a load of things: finally get a ceiling lamp for the hall to stop the front door crashing into the stupid pendant lamp (we’ve only lived there 18 months…sheesh), get lawn food (I don’t care living in a desert, but The Boss thinks it might be nice), paint for the living room (I’m on a painting roll, I tell you!), that kind of thing.  But most important of all, we needed a plunger and some drain rods.
Our showertray fills up and barely drains.  I’ve been really meticulous about rescuing hair from the plughole this time round, because in previous new-baby-hair-moults I’ve clogged drains with the handfuls of 2ft long hair falling off my bonce.  So I figured it wasn’t that.  Nevertheless, when prods of elongated coat hangers yielded nothing, I squirted a ton of old hair-removing cream down the plughole instead.  (I put the rest on strategic places on me.  And didn’t wash it off my armpits properly and got a tad chemical-burnt – youchy!  That’s why I prefer razors).  Anyway, that didn’t work – the cream just floated back up into the tray when the water was run.  Worse, the downstairs toilet stopped flushing properly, and it gurgled and bubbled when the handbasin emptied.  And the sink gurgled and filled when the toilet flushed – yeeeeuch.  Yeah, we had A Problem…
I voted that The Boss tackle the blockage because (a) he owned the sturdiest rubber gloves, (b) he’d probably caused it in the first place*, and (c) it was definitely A Man’s Job.
* Definitely TMI: The Boss’s toilet-otters are legendary, and sometimes require beating with a stick to kill ’em before flushing.  Our middle daughter takes after her father, and learned to use a toilet early because potties aren’t big or deep enough for her. Her nursery teachers are regularly shocked and appalled, in a horrified-fascinated kind of way.
Before getting busy, The Boss decided to check under the inspection manhole cover.  He recoiled and ran away, then tip-toed back with a spade.  He looked down the hole, looked at the spade, sighed, paced away, and returned with a bigger spade.  And commenced chopping.  Well, after filling the wheelie bin with toilet roll, floaters and sludge, he came in and staggered upstairs, green-faced, to the (newly-draining-freely) shower.
Poor man!  Guess it’ll be steak and chips for tea, then.