Clutter-Free Cluster-Fun? Holidaze Hankerings Edition

And then there was one... less than one... month to TWO!! AGH!!!

Actually, Chaya's already embracing her twoness in many wonderful ways.

I'm learning many of my most oft repeated words from her burgeoning little linguistic repertoire: "pretty cool," "awesome," "oh really?", "oh goodness," "careful!", "nervous," "BABY DOWN" (my attempt at neither escalating nor minimalizing Chaya's frequent pratfalls), "accursed mountebank"... the usual.

And she has coined what appears to be the word FAGULOUS... which I'm not sure I think she should be repeating in polite company, but could be appropriate uttered in very narrow circumstances. Along with her continued insistence that we must call a spoon "booze" and use a work for "fork" that definitely has some cacophemistic qualities to it.

She also does high fives and raises the roof (or possibly razes; "RAIZ ROOF RAIZ ROOF"), and says "OOOOPA!" for her daddy and "OOOOKRA!" for her mommy.  And ABDs, ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR... THEEE-FOOOR-FIVE-NINEs.




And the emotions. They be big, as promised. I hear that two actually isn't that terrible compared to what lays ahead. I hear that two-year-olds are walking bags of frustration and angst because they ought to be understood and want to understand and it's just damned frustrating (little artists). I hear that then they're three and they understand and they're like "fork that noise, mommy and daddy." And then they're four and they're all that but big enough that it's even harder to physically restrain them from hurting you and ... seriously parents of older kids love horror stories. I get a little nervous that Chaya already can trigger me, exasperate me, and get my mommy-goat (mah mah here and mah mah there) despite all my gentle meditative mindful effort, already! Before she even really is trying to do so.

At any rate there is a flavor of two that we're definitely imbibing at the moment, for good and ill and all adorable. There's an iron will, for sure. Vivid concentration. Immaculate memory and object permanence. A desire to test boundaries and assert identity. The gleeful bacchanalia that tips into ovestimulated decompensation at a second's notice. And of course the wonderful wonder and sense of discovery. It's a barrel of wowza.


As we wind into year two, the household continues to adapt.

The Schtuff schlog persists. We've wended through accessories (bye bye amazing earring collection languishing in dusty desuetude), and special purpose clothing (note to self: modern maternity bathing suits are beautiful and go a long way towards celebrating the non-existent BUMP, creating a rather eerie vacuum in your post partum midsection and it's time to let go).




And we continue to contemplate acquisition in regards to the little schtuff magnet.

It's strange to reflect on certain joys and 'filias of my childhood; and then choose to do something differently than my parents. I had an amazing childhood. I think Chaya should be half so lucky with her parents as I was with mine. And I have such strong positive memories of acquiring things. I blanch at some of the things I took joy in. If it was bored, I liked just going to an accessory store and buying earrings. Or a shirt. Or anything. I loved to buy things. And receive things. And acquire. And store things. But in a sense, we all evolve. I evolved with my mother and father after their divorce. What gave me joy then is different. And it at the very least reinforces that no matter what we start with, Chaya's preferences (and ours) will be two hundredfold different by the time she's an adult.

I can only do what I can do. And for all our sakes, I'd love to promote a less congested world. At the very least so mommy doesn't die strangled in Chaya's undersized shirts or tripped down the stairs of WonderBlox.




** Standard Disclaimer- Omphaloskeptical Skepticism of Everything Else I say Above and BelowAhead **

Apparently the key word into the cultist version of my yen to simplify with a child is "clutter free." Welcome to the handy world of blogs, listicles and hand crafted sustainable advice.

Clutter free also represents the kind of fastidious minimalism that doesn't appeal to me either. I think there's merit and logic in allowing a little chaos and celebrating objects and possessions.

The fixation on experience over possession only goes so far. One can just as readily clutter one's time with meaningless business or obsessions (like, say maintaining a minimal lifestyle in a society of pullulating consumption). Of course we clutter our time with busy-ness, phones, etc. But I'll get to that in a sec. 

I get the sense that the emphasis on leisure time over possessions is pointedly a signal of participation in a certain class of American society. Time is valuable in a way consumable goods no longer are. In a culture where time is the true premium - where we are flooded with so many cheap and available goods and junky mass-produced food as to have no limitations on our acquisition of it before it become deleterious to our well-being - of course it becomes a certain endemic that people will feel oppressed by their stuff.

 Of course classist strains of "virtue" will attach itself to those who have time to: (1) live sustainably, (2) cultivate their possessions, (3) eat handmade food with minimal processing, (4) optimize their free-range learning opportunities, (4) etc. And that the time and energy required to keeping only what is needed, organizing and caring for what is kept, and otherwise maintaining a lifestyle that might be the only option in a less "affluent" society, is only something available to the wealthier. 

Besides, as an introvert, I really do value my empty time as much as my empty space. Sometimes I hear the suggestion of offering to take a beloved child on a trip and I think of the many relatives I would have hated traveling with or being left alone with for a period of time. Or classes I would never want to be obligated to attend any more than hanging onto something. 

Not all clutter free sermonizing is blind to this one. There's a heavy emphasis on the screen-free. The Nordic fetish with playtime and Hygge... But, still, keeping a perfectly balanced and clutter-free home for your free-range child smacks of "stuff well-off white people like" about as much as day hiking with a structured pack (ahem, not that we've done that recently), farm-to-table foods, or paying to pick berries (uh huh) at the local farm. 







Not that this is bad intrinsically, but it's worth the reflection that I am pointedly a product of my culture.

And, let's just be honest... it all comes down to a fetishization of some sort. One can be minimalist one of two ways: (1) basically an anorexia of ownership- turning compulsive consumption into compulsive non-consumption until it truly consumes one's life, (2) putting all one's energy into consuming and possessing only the highest quality items. There's an Epicurean delightfulness in this, but it certainly manages to again prioritize consumption. So we're all somehow in the same situation. We just have different resources for our consumption. And it's nice to have time and resources to be mindful. But seriously, with a toddler, I don't have that much mind left, so maybe I'm not the right target for anything too thorough on any grounds. 

Finally, I am NOT a mom-blogger who thinks my kid should make her bed every morning, donate all her toys, and keep the fridge totally clear (seriously??)

Ok... that out of my system. There's too much stuff in our house!! Chaya and I are both overstimulated. Let's manage instead of cultivate for now...

***

My current fixation is on occasions, particularly with the little one's second coming up. How to celebrate them and bring the magic of my childhood holidays into her life in new ways.


Right now I'm trying to figure out the balance between object and experience. Receiving and giving gifts is an experience in itself. There's a place for this far beyond any mercantile exchange of goods. And there's something even more important about tangibility in an increasingly virtual world. 

 I remember holidays and the magic around gift-giving so fondly. Christmas and the brightly colored packages. The crinkle of ribbons. The visceral satisfaction of stockings. And the Easter baskets. Objects become totems for tacit and deeply held mutual affections. The act of exchanging them in certain ceremonial ways become reinforcing rites that glue families together in tradition. There is a joy in tangibility that I cannot deny. I miss that joyousness even now, though I less frequently get hand wrapped gifts. When I do get a stocking, even if nothing in the stocking is particularly interesting, there's some magic still clinging.

Which makes me wonder: how do I preserve that tangibility and festivity without relying on (1) junk, or (2) junk food. Really, I have no desire to replace clutter with crap. Not that certain holidays won't be devoted to the mindless consumption of things, but ultimately... well, I'd rather find a third way.

A few thoughts I've had so far:


* I enjoyed my childhood Easter Tradition of finding dyed eggs, then making them into an Easter meal. I also enjoy Claudia's Easter tradition of using shelled eggs, brightly coloring them, filling them with confetti, and then cracking them on the ground at the end. OOOPA!




* I recently discovered a group called Skagit County Rocks! They are centered are painting rocks found while exploring, then hiding them again for other members of the group to find, then rehide. I like the idea that these are things people can paint creatively, and then give forward

* I like the idea of planting a tree each birthday. Maybe a similar green plant experience for other holidays?


* Chaya's recently become obsessed with stickers. While not exactly being consumable, they tend to stick on things briefly, get torn off and go into the trash. Major win.




* Chaya's always obsessed with balloons. And they too die over time instead of sedimenting.

* I love "adopting" an animal and sponsoring a child in a poorer country when I was younger. I "had" an orca, a goat, and a leopard. And I actually corresponded with a few children in various parts of the country. There are also magazine subscriptions. I loved Zoo Books as a kiddo.

* Of course there is a place for experience. I do want to do an outing and a special family meal/hang out for each occasion. This year, we're going to the zoo. I'm sure we can think of something special associated with that. Maybe animal feed for the chickens if we go to a farm? Something silly like that.



* Well, this is highly material, but new "big girl" clothes are always useful at this age. That will slow down, but... shoes and socks, hats, coats, etc. Still highly consumable.

* I am playing with the idea of doing a small annual time capsul. A small note. Maybe an item or two of special importance. Seal it up somewhere and wait 5-10 years to open it again. Possibly asking all participants in a baby party to bring a small memento to be interned until the future. That one's all very theoretical. It creates a certain kind of clutter in a basement somewhere, of course, but still...

* Of course there are always really creative and weird foods. And one of my favorite adult traditions is something of a "food challenge" in which my father and I (usually by accident) acquire odd ingredients and are then forced to ad lib some fabulous meal with them. I kind of like the idea of giving less common fruits and veggies and edibles and then doing something with them.

* Seriously, Chaya would be happiest with several rolls of floss, a few spinny toothbrushes, some plastic gum containers and a few piles of dirt.



At any rate, there's a little less than a month to improvise this year and start fantasizing about Christmas.




And/or survive the terrible terrific twoness.

Wish us luck and lots of love!!

Konmari Kan-Do(ish)

We are officially single home-owners again! The condo closed at the end of June. The check was in the mail. It has been received. We had a ceremonious bank depositing ritual last Saturday. We have a single mortgage that we both intend to re-amortize (though god the paperwork and numbers and stuff). Doing so should cut our expenses to about a half or third of the last couple of months! FREEDOM! Adios Albatross. Hello Mt Vernon with two feet and a slightly plusher wallet in!

If you love something set it free. I loved that home. It was Chaya's original CRIBS ... And it makes me a little sad that she will never remember it. But on the other hand, we have so thoroughly acclimated to this home. Every month or couple of weeks of Chaya's life (and thus mine) feels like an entirely distinct era. The condo was several lifetimes ago already. It's time to charge forward!




Forget cleaning. That schtuff is pointless with a toddler. Time to GLEAN, winnow, sift and purify our material menagerie


Stuff!!! (AKA Dastardly dross and road blockage)

Life needs a healthy amount of existential exfoliation to enable evolution.

Let's get it on.

I have always been a bit of a purger. I don't have the same connection with material goods that many of us do. I am a gleeful regifter. I enjoy my trips to Goodwill on Black Friday and before other holidays. I always have a Goodwill bag stashed out somewhere.

Though I find that the more I age, the less attached I am to things generally. And particularly to signaling through my possessions. I once took great pains to maintain a cache of distinctive toys, accessories, objects, and clothes. Once upon a time, a shopping trip was a statement of identity. Pleasurable as each acquisition affirmed my place in the world and broadcast my inner feelings. I have become so exponentially less attached to this idea. I like clothes to be flattering enough but I really invest little into appearance. I dress mostly for comfort. I keep a backpack instead of any nice purse. I prefer my running shoes to be cute but I gave fudge all about my day to day shoes as long as they don't hurt my finicky feet. Perhaps it's the dawn of the digital era that allows me to feel more invested in an ethereal and virtual expression of the intangible inner world. Maybe it's just aging. Who knows. More and more I find myself bored with even window shopping. I take less delight in nicely wrapped packages at holiday times. Filling out the Amazon list feels more like an obligation!

I's funny in a sense that Andrew is far more emotionally invested in his possessions in many ways. I am the far more sentimental person. But in another sense, he is a cyclist and an engineer. He has a very respectful and thoughtful relationship with his "tools" and objects are tools. I acquire things in a panic and offload them in an equal tizzy. People, time, and experiences are where exert my caution, discretion, and loyalty. Their trappings may become totems, endued with their essence, but absent of this iconography, objects have little import to me. If I receive a gift that isn't right for me, I take joy in passing it forward with the belief that somebody else will find joy with it. Andrew has a very hard time letting go of a gift, even if it is clear he has no connection to it.

I acquire things with less serious thought, because I'm equally invested in the transience that my ownership will include. I tend to be cheap. I abhor the shopping experience. Sometimes I find it easier to simply acquire cheaply and upgrade as options open. I'm often so dilatory in purchasing a needed item, that I can only acquire through gifts. There is a great impact in value caused by the plentitude of alternative options. I feel opportunity costs overly well.

 Andrew deeply researches and considers his purchases. He holds onto things beyond reason sometimes. We do actually come to some very good mutual decisions on possession.

So finding a way to reconcile our approaches to things can be interesting, except that we both have come to realize that we also value empty space. A positive reframe of so many cavils and cantankery about a cluttered home. Different clutter may send us into tizzies, but generally, the clutter is mental chaos in a stressful and demanding time.

Although I purged deeply before moving, Andrew and I have a few rooms full of clutter. It's overwhelming and of course controlling our space gives us a certain symbolic approach to controlling that chaos that major life changes construct.
Bring on the the de-cluttering!




Andrew is also an engineer. While I do things in endless dribs and drabs, borrowing and stealing from several approaches and ad libbing as best I can, Andrew prefers a system. He's not utterly rigid, but he is linear. He does better starting from the beginning and going full-throatedly into the battle charge.

So we have landed on Marie Kondo.

With a healthy analytical skepticism about her particular client (middle aged Japanese women?) and how these things apply to our lives...

I can't comment specifically on the book, as I've never read it.

But we have a few basic tenets:

1. Take everything of a specific category. Put all possessions in that category on the floor, and then decide item-by-item if it "sparks joy." Keep only the joyful sparkers.

2. Get rid of anything that fails to rise to the level of joy. After revising "sparks joy" to something a little more utilitarian than actually getting twitterpatted  over your nail clippers. I mean, I like having enough shirts to make it through the week without doing laundry, but my soul doesn't sing at the second black t-shirt I have. And underwear... well I guess it brings me joy that I'm not borrowing Chaya's overnight diapers to get me through to the next cycle?

3. Do some weird origami folding something to do with drawers and nest your remaining bags in bags.

4. Work your way through the categories until you get to the dreaded "miscellaneous" - something that sounds a lot like Kimono when Andrew says it (komono).

5. Chose a place for everything. Spend the rest of your life replacing everything as toddler gleefully runs around and empties the very bowels of any particular storage. Retrieve everything from the bottom of the stairs and the areas around the house where windows aren't screened. Check the trash, as that is definitely a PLACE for many things in toddler's eyes.

6. Maybe remodel the basement to install a tatami room in which to put all the children's toys and various other sundries. Then argue about what an American equivalent might be, while marshaling for an understading that allows a "family room" even if that doesn't fit the Japanese usage.

7. Hold various religious rituals to honor the things you are sending away, thank your house for being awesome, and recharge your shrine tokens. Then hit your local yogacardioblast and acknowledge your own whiteness.


And off to the races we go. We've made it through clothing and just handled bags.




Kiddo Konmari? 

I've been struggling and determined to provide a healthy amount of empty space for Chaya, both in time and physical space. I think this is really valuable for children. Space to be bored. Space to be creative. Space to run! Space to discover the world without it clamoring for directed and filtered attention.



Sounds lovely, but it's so easy to create junk piles of pullulating potpourri with a child. Even a trip to the dentist gets you a new hunk of plastic. We aren't quite at "birthday party" level of party-bag junkquisition, but it's coming soon.


Though seriously, the hunks of plastic aren't the problem. That's easy to toss (or just leave in the recycing when toddler inevitably decides it deserves to be there while she's hunting for empty gun containers). It's the really "nice" handcrafted toys from ethically sourced companies. The playsets. The random thing some lover-of-Chay just had to get for her. Or which mommy and daddy couldn't resists. Hey Chaya loves new things every day and we want to encourage her passions. Car! Get a neat toy car with moving wheels! Motorcycle! For sure! Giraffe! Stuffed giraffe times two for every mood of the day! Pony! Ok, sure! Ooooh science experiments!

It all adds up. She's at a stage of just-almost understanding objects and ownership. Developing attachments and trying out "my" and other possessive pronouns. But she still has a certain fluidity in materialism at this point. She adores sharing. Even insistently pressing objects into the hands of others.



And she mostly gravitates to a few toys that we leave out. Long before Kondo, I have been very big on finding "a place" for all of her toys. We leave a couple of them in specific places around the big room. Otherwise, there are specific drawers for various toys. If we can't fit her toys in the drawer, then I think maybe she has too much.

She helps a little with keeping the baby slush pile under wraps by losing things, throwing them in the trash and otherwise tossing out the toys (usually her favorites, unfortunately, but such is life). Still... we could manage some contracts and organization on her end as well.

Future Stuff:

As we move to the next stage ourselves, I'm remaining conscious. Andrew suggested that - given my relationship with things - the issue is far less an attachment to things that I need to set free, but to address acquisition.

I've also already begun to take steps towards that. I've begun eschewing the chore of filling out my amazon list, requesting donations to my favorite charities in my name  or teas and candies. I know many people root for experiences over things, and I support that. But that's a balance for an introvert of course. And sometimes I manage never to get to those dance lessons or massages I used to fall back on. Dark chocolate is good, of course. Easily stored but also easily consumed.

Then I wonder about Chaya. Unlike Andrew, my glee in gift giving and receiving is a pure experience. We wrap things in colors. We love exchanging trinkets. And I strongly remember the elation in that activity. I want to preserve that somehow.

But I don't want to just substitute being mired in STUFF with being mired in JUNK FOOD (the obvious alternative). So I'm thinking on that. What encapsulates experience but is significantly transient and special? That's a work in progress. A little of both with lots of wrapping and easily worn things? Cards for me, for sure. Alternative traditions. I think there's a place for gifts of possessions. The idea is to ensure they are things that truly bring joy and will be part of one's life. It's the mindlessness that we're attempting to address.

For Chaya's second birthday - and for my 35th - we are going to the zoo to see those darned giraffes. I'm not quite sure from there.

In the meantime, we're only a small ways through the Konmari order. The easy stuff is handled. Moving through shoes now. And then onto the really tough stuff, like papers and other stuff still shoved in boxes. But it's a longterm investment.


So in the interim, if you feel like giving a gift, please let it be your presence. Your support. A big stash of dark chocolate. And maybe a gift certificate to some such thing or other.

Lunch out with a toddler - a short (especially by my standards) photo essay how-to.



Begin with several hours of lead time. Pack a t-shirt (bib), a toddler bowl, a toddler spoon, a sippie cup. None of these things will be needed. If you don't have them, they will be required.

Arrive at the restaurant after struggling to restrain toddler from diving into traffic and climbing into an opened car. Locate a booth. Request a high chair. Read the menu together (if by read, you mean throw it under the table while yelling BOOK)






Briefly let toddler move from the booth to the high chair. She requested. Offer a larabar after she demands something. Take several laps around the restaurant with a toddler waiving an uneaten larabar like a spear. Sustain a few tantrums about not being allowed back into the kitchen. Load toddler back into the booth. 



Play interference while toddler stands up over the edge of the booth and scream "BALL" at the quarter machine. Toddler attempts to offer your fork to various children coming up for quarter loot (by the way nothing costs a quarter anymore).


Toddler ignores the food you've cut up for her, preferring to pilfer waffle fries from Gramma Pam. 


Toddler takes a bite of eat one, pass the rest to Paaaaaam or Mamma. Repeat for several rounds.


Repeatedly. 





Toddler rejects ketchup. Mindlessly munch toddler's lunch. Cover the food with a napkin to stop yourself from continuing until you want to throw up.

Toddler finally finishes biting all the waffle fries and re-bites the bitten ones. Eventually accepts bites of gardenburger from a fork.





Toddler finally attempts a bite of the hamburger bun. Yells BREAD and eats half a bun. Explors under the table.



Daddy excitedly offers some brownie sundae to toddler who is uninterested and preferring to eat a fork. Toddler pushes away offers of ice cream. Yells BREAD again. Dives under the table.

Take another several tours of the restaurant. Toddler howls bloody murder upon being placed in the carseat. Crashes almost immediately upon getting into the bedroom having skipped the usual dalliances with the bathroom and running around the nursery chair.

Ta-da!!


SAHM Old SAHM Old and the Semi-Femi-Feminism

This might be rambly and brambly, so let's start with my newest edition of "Random things I say to my child." Because sometimes I think we quote our kids a little more often than is fair or balanced.

"Can you find the matching sock? That's the one that looks just like the one you're wearing... Or actually whatever sock. Pick any second sock that feels right. Love comes in many forms and pairings and it's all good and wonderful. Shoe love, though... That's different. They're like foot fundamentalists. Lots of rules."

"Another famous guy died, sounds like. People die, Chaya. People die all the time. Especially famous people. They're dying a bunch. That's your lesson in morality"

"Ouch. You are making this hard for me... But then again that's your job. Mommy needs adversity to keep her brain functioning... sort of functioning... Thank you for giving me challenges to rise to so I don't stagnate." 

"No honey, I don't think the birdie (on my mug) wants anymore cheerios and milk. He's very small so he's full. Also he's lactose intolerant like daddy. You'd better have his milk."

"If you're hoppy and you know it you're a bunny. If you're hoppy and you know it you're a bunny. Or I guess a kangaroo because I hear they hop hop too, or maybe you're a beer that makes dad sneeze." 

"No matter how many times you say NUM to me you will not be able to climb my pants. You are not a monkey and I am not a tree. Maybe vines like ivy or blackberry brambles. But you are not a monkey" 



And now we return to the unfolding SAHM experience and the mulling on gender and mommening. 

 Chaya sees the world as populated by (1) Sebastian and Isla (sometimes Alex), and their mommies (2) PAAAAAAM (and probably her other less-clearly named associates, and (3) mommas/daddas/babies. Eventually she will start to associate herself more with mommas or daddas most likely. Children are obsessed with sorting and identity. There's little way around that.

Meaning how Andrew and I interact will be her first and strongest initial window into how men and women interact. Gulp! Please, Chaya, be gay to take some of the pressure off of that!

No really.



There are always balances to be reached. I'm never fully sure where or what, but there are balances.

TL;DR - there's still some major societal forces that make it hard not to fall into (and teach) certain gendered patterns. And it gets even murkier when one parent works outside of the home.  

At the moment, I don't think I always walk the talk of a true feminist. 

 I am a feminist-sympathizer. I am strongly opposed to a culture that pushes girls to be one thing and squashes other messaging into boys. I resist the culture that fetishizes masculinity and denigrates femininity. The culture that suppresses male feelings and calls strong women shrill. I want Chaya to have the full range of gender spectrum.



But I am not that sterling role breaking role model sometimes. I play into a lot of social messaging and preconceived gender conceptions. And sometimes I feel like the same patterns and preconceptions will play out for Chaya that play out for every girl. 

We're a modern, enlightened, and respectful coupling, her Dadda and I. I wanna start with some kudos to us: 

1. Andrew doesn't expect me to take care of him. He does his own laundry. He handles his dishes and confines his clutters to his areas. 

2. Andrew contributes at home. He asks if I need anything from the outside world when he's out. He handles some basic maintenance and financial stuff that is hard for me to get to specifically because he knows it's harder for me. 

3. Andrew contributes with Chaya. He helps getting her in her chair and set up for dinner. He watches her while I get a walk on weekends. He plays with her plenty. And he changes her and reads her her bedtime stories. Even when she's having a rough night, he takes her to bedtime and does his best to soothe her. And has sat up with her on rough sleep nights before.

4. Andrew and I treat his work income as our whole family income and talk about budgeting and big decisions together.

5. Andrew expresses appreciation for what I do at home and for him. Because, again, he does not expect women should care for the household etc.

6. I'm pretty strong willed and I am not afraid of taking on certain tasks that might be unsavory for women. I think we both project an attitude of equality instead of deference or distrust.

7. Generally speaking we make great decisions together about an array of things impacting us both and model some very good conflict resolution. So we rock.

But there's always a but:

But we are also raging stereotypes. Most of my cadre consist of well educated women and self-sufficient, enlightened men. Yet certain themes tend to persist universally. With a few exceptions I actually don't know any mom who's had daddy watching the kids more than ninety minutes at a time. I know few dads who know the dietary preferences/needs, bath time rituals, nap time rituals, clothing sizes, complex emotional triggers and tells, and any other handful of things that pertain to their children. There are constant frustrations over dads getting the kids wound up or not getting fed or getting sleep and vanishing when home, etc. 

And it appears to be a national thing, stay at home or not. I won't quote all the studies. But women carry a lot more of the load whether they work or not.



When we first got married, we had our separate live and shared the load of that sliver in the center. If I wanted to do something on "my time" I did it. I had my finances for my hobbies and purchases. Andrew had his time and finances. We had a shared space. Shared expenses. And a division of tasks not too different than roommates would have. We had a cleaning service, a yard service, and our respective spaces could be cleaned by us to our tastes in the interim.

Emotionally, yeah, we've always been a little traditional. I'm uber-empathetic. Andrew's an engineer. Did we handle his stuff more than mine? Did I not talk up a lot about my feelings because he hadn't asked? Were they more complicated? And did I feel more comfortable facilitating his goals quietly and for my own happiness? Yeah. But still.

The external divisions started to make less sense given the disparity in aptitude and availability. Andrew was commutting and it was fun and much more efficient for me to take over food for both of us. To handle a little more of the household tasks and accounts. Of course we consolidated. We're partners. It makes sense. Why reduplicate when you can have expedient division of labor? 

And then there was parenting and staying at home and everything else that you know complicates ... well... everything. And it's good. And logical. We complement each other. But it's also complicated.

There was a comic going around recently that made a splash on Facebook. It made me think, although nothing there was particularly new. 

It starts describing the difference between male and female partners/parents by describing the "mental load" that women carry. And the additional taxation of a spouse who wants to help (and strongly wants to be an equal contributor), but leaves it at requiring specific delegation to complete household tasks. More or less. When I hear "I'd love to help if you'll let me" my first reaction is "oh great, my brain is already totally overwhelmed and now I have to discover the perfect task for you and explain it!" Not entirely. But somehow when you're a mother in triage, the additional chore of using brain space to discover how you could use help is onerous.

Multi-Taking Mental Load:

When we're having a conversation at dinner this is my brain (1) listening and interacting with Andrew's post-work monologue about his day and keeping this cataloged so I can pick back up in between singing whatever song Chaya is demanding to hear, (2) bringing up and/or searching for the things I have meant to tell him or consult him about for the house or child at appropriate pauses before I totally forget again, but keeping them in my head for a conversationally appropriate moment and trying to phrase them in a neutral non-confrontational way if it's something I need him to help with, (3) keeping an eye out for the fifty ways in which Chaya is about to make a huge mess or hurt herself, with one of ten utensils she's demanded of me (4) keeping an ear out for one of several household devices that's likely to start beeping, (5) trying to figure out what on earth Chaya is yelling ON/OFF about while staring at me expectantly, while trying to trying to encourage her to eat something that will balance her gut so she won't be miserably gassy or constipated but also not forcing eating if she's not into it, (6) trying to alert Andrew's attention to the fact that Chaya is now attempting to get his attention to give something to him or demand something of him, and then translating, (7) mentally checking off the various things my beleaguered body and/or brain needs to do for personal stuff and/or Chaya's medical appointments, (9) trying to drown out some chaotic mess somewhere in the house that is stressing me out, (10) running back and forth to the kitchen getting things and putting things away and otherwise not living in the moment because once Chaya's in bed all I want is some actual downtime where I am able to relax and not be cleaning up the disaster zone of things that actually can't wait believe it or not (perishable?) Plus our relationship needs downtime together and I want a healthy model for Chaya so we need to really have that time together instead of cleaning...

Andrew's brain: (1) work, (2) occasionally funny face from Chaya when she says dadda, (3) bikes or cars, and whatever that FB notification was (4) dinner.



Un-Free Time:

And of course this goes beyond the present and presence. In a sense, being a SAHM means not having your own discretionary time any more.

For instance, if Andrew needs a personal appointment it's fairly simple. He can just schedule one, take some vacation time at work however it fits his build schedule, work late somewhere, or drop by a provider on the way home. If it carves out some time he spends at home, well that's sad to miss out but it has to be done.

If I need to do any minor thing, I need to arrange childcare. I need to ask somebody for help and work with their schedule. I have options. But for instance this month, my mom is working, Claudia is just gave birth and I don't feel right about dumping another baby on her until she's safely out of labor and those first weeks. We could start dealing with daycare, but that's a whole 'nother can of complicated worms (and expenses). And, while Andrew had previously said he'd like to help,  that means juggling his schedule (difficult with the commute and his build schedule) with mine and Chaya's and a practitioner's schedule. None of those are static. And it's a huge headache so I often feel overwhelmed and don't bother. Especially for something non-emergent. Or something that will require lots of repeat sessions (like, say, PT for my messed up back)

The same is true for "fun" stuff. Andrew wants to have a fun long lunch, he just has to work a little later. Yeah, he'll be home later, but he's not thinking about any gymnastics to make sure somebody watches Chaya in that interim between his usual and his new time at home.

Or Andrew sometimes schedules weekend trips without consulting me about whether I'm going to be there and able to watch the beast. He invites us to join and respects if I choose not to participate, but he makes the first decision about whether he'll be home and available on his own.

 I would never do the same. I feel like I need to ask permission and plan around somebody's availability. I feel guilty sometimes just squeezing in my treadmill time in the morning. I've asked him to recognize that our weekend plans now affect each other directly and that we need to discuss them regarding childcare, but that mental idea of "I want to do something... but who will watch Chaya? I'd better coordinate" just isn't a starting point.

 I have one walk a weekend day that I doggedly hold onto now. He then has a morning-long preparation,  1-3 hour ride, and shower. Usually followed by a nap while Chaya's napping and I'm scuttling around the house doing EVERYTHING I can't do while she's awake. I am planning to start taking day or half day trips with my dad to the opera after this summer. But there's going to be a discrepancy that persists We both contribute to that discrepancy.

Presence:

 I'm constantly in triage mode so I am much better at getting little things done while watching Chaya. If I'm in the house and Chaya needs something (or the house needs something), I do it by habit instead of waiting for somebody else to step in. Andrew's more likely to wait until he's asked to do something. Which never happens if we're both there, because of my aforementioned habit. When we're both home, he's more likely to need to vanish and get some things done whereas I'm more likely to bob and weave between everything. Constantly on call. Never fully done going through my checklist.

And the time each parent and child spends together: Andrew gets the luxury of dropping everything to be with Chaya when he's with her. Whether he does or not is up to him, but he gets to. It's discrete enough and then when he needs something (even a phone call or the bathroom) he goes into the other room knowing I'm nearby. Me, I'm a pro at getting things done in-between demands for attention. I'm a pro at doing everything one-handed while holding a baby in the other. I'm a pro at navigating an entire house with a munchkin pulling on my pant leg and shrieking. I don't remember the last time I've used a bathroom alone while the toddler's up. Andrew still locks both doors.

Treatment and triage...

And Chaya knows this. Dadda is for playing and snuggling. Mama is for playing too (because I do get a ton of that as well), but she's also the one who manages the daily routines. The one who knows them and enforces most of the daily rules. The comforter in chief, but also the enforcer. 

But in many ways, Andrew is gentler and more protective of her. I am more familiar with how much she can take on a given incident. And I'm more likely to be running. I wonder if this will shape her expectations of interactions with men and women... I'm not sure how. I just wonder.



And if Andrew wants to help me when I'm swamped it works when she wants fun. If I am doing something and Chaya is making it hard, he says "Chaya do you want to hang out with me?" But he doesn't know how to coax her away and if I respond to get bids for attention at all, he will often recede and really until I've perhaps convinced her work coaxing and books and distractions to hang out with him. 

For my part I am often guilty of shooting down attempts to contribute, because they maybe will make it more challenging for me in the short run. Or maybe I'm being defensive. I try to step back and explain my thought our simply apologize and defer but it certainly puts him off.

Yeah, advice-mongers I "should" just go away. I need to let him struggle a bit more. But the consequences also won't be born equally. If Chaya goes a day without a nap, or not drinking anything and getting dehydrated, or getting totally over stimulated, who gets to deal with her when the fall out hits? The primary parent. 

Division of Helplessness?

As I've said, there are a ton of things Andrew does in the outside world that make my life so much easier. But of course this enhances that sense of mutual learned helplessness. I cannot fix a stroller tire, put together simple furniture,  or work the carseat because it's impossible to do anything like that with a toddler around and I'm not about to use my precious nap time to struggle with learning. This embarrasses me I guess because I feel like a woman should be equally competent with these things.  And that means things really impact my life depend on an independent contractor's priority for what needs getting done. Leaving my options at waiting or nagging if it isn't high on a long list. Or helping out extra to get other things higher on the priority list done (If Andrew gets out the door earlier in the morning, he won't have to stay as late at work... if I clear up time for him to get xyz done, then he'll have more time to fix the whatever). We're parents. That means life will always be overwhelming and we'll always have more on our plates than we can handle.

And, here's a challenge. I often feel like Andrew is super behind and overwhelmed. I'm sensitive to that and want to help. But at the same time, some part of me will feel like that's partially contributed to by his own choices to have fun and tend to personal matters that put him further behind, and which may have already reduced his presence to contribute previously. And that's a tough spot sometimes.

Outside/Inside:

Another tough spot is that sometimes I feel like we send this quiet little message that the outside work/world is still "better" somehow. I don't know how to explain this exactly. I've been an independent grownup with a job. So when Andrew and I talk about his day, we both have this common ground. We both know how satisfying a day's work can be and how maddening coworkers can be. Being a stay at home parent, though, is quiet. Without clear metric. And not something that Andrew has ever truly experienced. Even if he watched Chaya for a week or a month, he wouldn't really quite grok it. He knows it's "hard" in some murky abstract way. But he doesn't know the day to day. Why certain things lead to negative consequences that snowball. How on earth I know in advance how Chaya's likely to react in a few minutes. Why certain things stress me/her out. What joys I take in perfunctory matters like bowel movements or actually getting my child to brush her teeth without a battle. 

We don't have common ground and it makes it hard to have a conversation about my day in a relatable way. I think we relate to each other by analogy, and he mostly has "not working" as his analogy. Which is pretty well flawed, of course. He means nothing by it, but often makes comments about certain activities being great for a "stay at home dad" that few actual SAHPs would ever have time or energy to accomplish. He often talks in rosy terms about my future career. To him he sees the absence and perhaps the amorphous "sacrifice" but lacks an anchor in the reality. 




This alone has a lot to do with what I'll call Daddisms - things I hear form men/secondary caregivers in particular, and which run akin to that obstreperous if well-meaning "the dishes can wait" adage. Akin to the whole attitude of "just mellow out, we'll get to things when we get to them." Yes, the dishes can and do wait quite a while. Yes, the dirty diaper I have left on the table to run after a half clad baby can wait, and the pile of trash on the floor, and the clutter... And yes, a baby who doesn't sleep or eat well for a few days will eventually probably sort it out.. I am the queen, I remind you, of triage. Every naptime, there's a long list of moving parts with priorities of what must be done, what would make me feel happier not to deal with later, what can wait, and everything in between. Because I may have to drop everything at a moment's notice to deal with a crazy toddler or some other fire things have to be good enough in every arena.

 Can the dishes really wait until college? Because I don't think you'd like that all so much. But eventually we do need to eat something off of something and if there are sharp objects lying around that's a problem and if we get ants because of the pile... so basically everything can wait for a few days, which is about as long as most people saying these things ever have to bear the full brunt of the consequences of things waiting. One day of missed toothbrushing... who cares? Two years?

Semi-Femi - Modern State of Things?

 I think perhaps this comes down to some half way there feminism in terms of the messages men and women have still been getting from childhood.

1. Modern men now are raised with high priority in independence. Women still are placed in a much highly communally focused context.  Men still get prickly when their independence is encroached upon. Women accept and expect their lives to be more subject to the web of lives around them. 

2. Women have still been trained to be sensitive to the needs of others and to rush in an help/set at ease without being asked or noticed. In fact women often feel guilty if they've let something go long enough that they have to be asked in the first place. They may somewhat expect a similar level of attention from those around them. 

3. Women have been raised not to impose. Men have been raised to feel weak about needing help. Both deters asking for help, but changes how it's accepted. Men are also raised to say what they want and "mean" clearly. Women are taught to measure how they approach another person and address the impact it will have on them. 

4. Women have been raised to value their relationships as innate part of identity, while men (valuing independence) still have a high value on accomplishment and external metrics. 




I'm sure there's more

And I'm not sure what. 

But it seems like there is a balance somewhere. And Chaya will be her own person. I just hope we continue struggling forward and finding that balance. Letting the burden fall on neither of us too palpably and always questioning. 

All-(W)righty Ready Roo: Where'd that month go?

Well after the utterly pedestrian obsessions over dishwashing strategies (still a work in progress, but progressing), I promised I'd update the world on the life of Chai (and Wright) in more detail. 

But then life happened! And Andrew's been off (and thus off Chaya-tending duties) a bit more during the times I ordinarily put this pitter-patter palaver to page.

And thus...

Too much has happened to (1) have allowed time to cover it, (2) sum up here.

So a rabid rapid-fire tour of the Wright's last couple of months




Easter


Many moons and several suns ago, there was Easter. We had a party at Claudia's house. Chaya's participation in the egg hunt was limited to ignoring eggs and gallivanting around the play
set.

It was fun. 


We also had dinner with my Dad.




Lunch at the COA

The COA Mexican Eatery is a Mexican restaurant owned by the Skagit Valley Food Co-op. It is well renowned and for good reason. The food is sceumdiddlyumptious by all reports. Andrew and I hadn't been. Jen and her family hadn't been. Claudia had and endorsed it heartily. And thus we decided we'd all like to meet there for lunch. Well, originally dinner, but the COA wasn't open at a time that worked for us for dinner. It gets complicated with the moving pieces of three families and a restaurant. Claudia was fully engaged in her farewell-before-baby-chaos tour. Andrew and I have had quite the booked May. Chaya and Alex and Sebastian all have varying nap and sleep schedules....

 So finally we found a time to schedule all of us for brunch. All ten of us. Needless to say (six parents, three babies and a six year old), we made reservations because you just don't know. The reservations were for Sunday at 11:00 and all was set.

Except the COA isn't open then. It's not listed anywhere at being open on Sunday period.

Except, Andrew was off on some morning ride that ran long.

Except Jen and Joe's car started smoking on their approach to Mount Vernon.

The survivors met up in the parking lot while half the group went to the auto parts store and Andrew busted butt bustling there from Burlington. He met us there and changed into clothes I'd brought him. Eventually the restaurant opened without much ado. A reservation was obviously unnecessary, as we were the only patrons for the entire ninety minutes we were there, except for one takeout order.

But the food was good. And everyone made it home alive and relatively well fed. I endorse the COA, but don't bother making reservations. And it really is open on Sundays. Really. Just maybe not when you've arranged to be there. And maybe not at night either. 


Mother's Day weekend.

Nothing big for me personally other than an express haircut at JC Penny. I know how to splurge for myself, I know. Nearly double my usual hair-cutting budget there. 




Now that my hair is shorter and Chaya's longer, we almost are at the point of having matching mother-daughter 'dos. I'd say she resembles me more and more every day. Especially in my slippers. 

But it was a big weekend. Chaya's Gramma Lisa came to visit us first and then invited us to join her at the culinary adventure known as The Willow's Inn.




Forager chic James Beard Award (and/or James Bond, I never quite remember) winning prixe fixe plus a toddler in a bright pink t-shirt blowing her nose on a buckwheat crepe and spooning scoops of creme freche onto the floor with a dayglo yellow toddler spoon. 



We spent the rest of the morning on the beach with Lisa's friends' dog (and various adults of varying significance relative to the dog) before heading back on the afternoon ferry.



Chaya was so excited by the day she declined to drink or nurse much all morning. And then she took a piddling half hour car nap on the way home.

I knew after such a big day (plus a poor nap and a cold to start) Chaya was due to crash hard. I didn't realize that it would be quite so literal when she did. After being a bit of a momma's girl during the afternoon, Chaya had finally located her daddy. He was changing out laundry and decided a fun way to keep her safe would be to put her in the laundry basket. An old tradition. She loves the laundry. This time, it was on top of the dryer. Back in the day, one could do this while leaving her on a tall surface. As you may predict, that day is long gone.

Lauging laughing laughing... I saw her up on top of the dryer. I even hovered a bit and did that preemptive jumpy thing when it looked like she was near the edge. Then I went back to the kitchen to handle a boiling pot. And... CRASH. First time it was actually just the recycling bin that Andrew tipped over. Second time, however, CRASH WAAAAAAAAAH.

Chaya was shaken: an oozing puddle of shriek in daddy's arms. She leapt to me, occasionally breaking from her howls to comment on the dinner I was still tending (of course this was the day I decided to use the stove instead of the far more independent instant pot, and of course it was just when things were boiling over - a condition Chaya described as warm in a quivering sotto voce). Shudder, shiver, howl, and "waaarm" with a whimper.

 I repeated how brave she had been, and what a clean fall she'd made. I cooed that that must have been very scary and what a big day she'd had. How amazing she'd been. I showed her pictures of the dog she'd met. This helped. We looked at pictures of her friend. She mellowed. She did not want to be released for anything though. And by dinner we were in such full meltdown that she could not eat, and demanded "stories" (beginning of her bedtime routine). She was crashed before I could put her down. And drank a small ocean of liquid the next two days.



She has subsequently fallen off several platforms and surfaces of various degrees. Without similar meltdown or bedtime crashes, so we suspect that exhaustion was the greater motivator in her reaction. Which I'll remember the next time we plan to do something fun and highly stimulating, because I'm lame like that. But I'll also let it happen and won't be surprised at the end.


Car death

In the meantime, Andrew's car has been in and out of various shops with a variety of dead end diagnostics.

Until Monday. Would have been its fourth time at the shop? Something like that. 

Tuesday we pulled the (spark) plug. Andrew spent the day shopping around various dealerships, and doing complicated spreadsheets to find the Subaru Impreza to rule them all. He thought he'd get one from a place in Burlington. They gave him a loaner, which he's been driving the last couple of days. Then they couldn't. But there was another one waiting in the wings in Shoreline. A better, stronger redder Subarooooooorooo. All is well? I think?

House Sale

We are pending! We accepted a conditional offer at the beginning of the month. The buyer just accepted an offer on his house. As I understand it, that means we may actually close on our house someday. But we're still waiting to do some agreed repairs on our condo and waiting on the buyer's home inspection etc. Some day, we may actually not be carrying two mortgages. And very soon, we'll be relocating a ton of furniture and the like that remained there for "staging." 

In the meantime, my dad sold his downtown mansion on what felt like a whim. He's got an apartment in Bellingham and is planning to buy a palace or something in Florida. Surreal to say goodbye to that much of my youth all at once.

Daddy's Birthday

Andrew tipped the scales past mid-thirties into the uncharted lands of 36 years last week. Chaya, hearing about his car troubles, wanted to make sure he had a sweet new ride.



Andrew celebrated by doing some kind of ride in Bellingham (because we're up there every weekend it seems since we moved, har har). Then he got up obscenely early on Sunday in order to volunteer at his team's big stage race in Enumclaw (far far away farmland). He didn't get back home until after bedtime. But I'm told her had fun.


Ski to Sea

That annual tradition is back upon us for the bajillionth time. Andrew's team of Embrace the Dadbod is possibly even competitive. In order to manage the "downhill" (read "slog up a mountain with your skis for a half hour and then ski down for a few minutes") portion of the relay, he'll have to get up at 3 a.m. or so tomorrow "morning." And we probably won't see him until dinner time. Today, we're going to go to the initial stirrings of a team potluck, but probably won't stay for the whole time because we want to be available for...


The looming birth Bonanza.



Claudia is"due" on the 30th. I've offered to watch Sebastian while she's in labor if he's born before her mom comes on the 28th. This has been a fairly likely outcome, but of course you can't predict labor. I've been on double-trouble alert for the last fortunight or so. Andrew was away part of last weekend, but he did stay home from any additional birthday trips just in case, which I appreciate to the moon and back.




It's going to be interesting. We've had Sebastian for many playdates, but for much shorter durations. I haven't ever had him long enough to juggle baby nap and sleep schedules, and sleep is incredibly variable compared with Chaya's routine. I suspect they just won't sleep much. Baby slumber party! And I'll get to play with being a mom of twins! Almost twins! I'm sure I'll learn a lot. Like I'm glad I am not the mom of twins? But, truly, I adore Sebastian and he and Chaya are BFFs. Chaya even speaks his language! He likes to repeat something like DAH DAH DAH as one of his main means of communicating. Chaya imitates him when he's here and when he isn't, she says "'Bastion! BAH BAH! NOISE!" 

At any rate, we have a pack and play for him and a bag of essentials. Chaya is enjoying the pack and play. 



Life, Actually

In the meantime, Miss Thang continues to grow and evolve and become ever more Chayaesque. I continue to chase after as best I can. 

We've got our routines. She knows them down pat and narrates the next step for them as we go along. Before meals we put on a get-ready song. She knows this is time ot run amok and pick out a friend from her Fisher Price farm animals "trackter" set to join us at the table.




After meals, is "wash" and then "brush teeth" and then the optional "bathroom" to brush some more and flush her baby toilet, and then - if it's nap or bed time - "stories!" Sometimes she sings along with Daddy when he sings to her. Other times she leaps out of his arms yelling "MAMA!" when I come in to nurse her before bed. She doesn't fall asleep after I put her down as often these days. But she does have a fun little roll and chant around in her crib while the parents have some pre-bed downtime. She seems to like it. Fingers crossed!

She knows we need shoes and a coat (optional now) to go to the garage, get in the carseat, and go to the store. Or to walk. 

She knows a bajillion words and more every day. She is now pairing them obsessively. 

She knows she is Miss Thang. 



And that about wraps up our magical month of May...

This could be quite the weekend, but we are turning several pages forward regardless. And with the kind of indiscriminate excitement that Miss Bae gets with any several books (all of which have names now for her, which is also convenient).

Enjoy or avoid the summer heat as it alights, y'all! And catch ya in the June Jungle. 

Adventures in Chaos-Quelling: Sisyphus and the Swiffer

Actually the chaos of the move has subsided moderately. Moderately. We have officially listed our condo (ok, almost - there was some kind of transaction issue and it's supposed to be up sometime today now). A cousin's son may be willing to mow our jungle for us. Our external light is fixed thanks to the magic of people who know people on Facebook. Our bedroom has curtains. Andrew's car isn't exploding. And this weekend (and this weekend only), we're actually not off on some kind of crazy excursion or other. We may stay in town the entire weekend, even! Maybe catch up on taming the chaos of our designated "pile o'shiznet" in the office and basement. Naw. But it's a noble idea.

Oh and the baby plague has subsided moderately. Chaya is still coughing, but she's back to staying up for a half hour telling her bunny rather stirring bedtime stories, and otherwise being less utterly miserable at times.



And now to the big chaos: Life. No way that's getting handled anytime soon.

But we are trying to let things settle a bit more and I'm experimenting with keeping some semblance of order in our lovely domicile.

Cleaning Buy-in for Baby

So I feel like this is another area that just has no consistency of opinion. I know the following with some degree of wiki-certainty:

 (1) moms running around cleaning up after their children all the time apparently breeds children with entitlement and no idea how to handle themselves,

 (2) but kids who live in chaotic messes are overwhelmed and overstimulated and they benefit from having things put away,

(3) But wait aren't messy people typically more creatives?

 (4) Ok, but seriously, give kids chores (but don't call them "chores" - maybe contributions or I don't know cucumbers?) and don't bribe them  to do them. And even toddlers can help around the house

 (5) Also the perpetual chaos is totally stressful and terrifying and it's nice to have things occasionally corralled

(6) Ok, so kids can help around the house, but what if they don't think that a toddler cleaning song and asking them to help mommy or turning it into a game interests them? Don't you dare turn this into an unecessary battle or go all disciplinarian on that poor toddler. They are way too young to have impulse control or understand pretty much anything. Really, we should lower our expectations of kids this age. Stop being so rigid and evil!




So of course the only alternative is to get rid of all our possessions and just go on playdates with affluently cluttered babies.

Some kids like to follow instructions. Like at the Mommy and Me Class, Chaya's buddy Isla is giddy about skipping in a circle, or lifting her leg, or pointing to her nose, or finding the BLUE BALL (and only the blue ball) to give back to Miss Mo for putting away.

Chaya's happy to show off and insists on being quizzed about animal noises, where certain things are, and the like. She has no time for "helping" or playing games. And really never has. I'm the hands-off mom who lets her run rampant during class time. I can't help it. I keep muttering under my breath things like "who the fuck cares if it's a green ball?" Though when we have all the little games that involve doing various things while holding hands and moving in a circle, I carry Chaya along. And when we're playing with the big parachute, I do prevent her from climbing on top of it. But seriously, the grief, exhaustion and angst some moms experience trying to corral their childrens at what's supposed to be a fun dance class? I feel a little guilty to thwart the teacher's instructions, which makes me even more resistant.

Anyways, yes, so instructions and games. Chaya plays her own games.



But I have found some success in asking her if she'll help put things away into their designated boxes. She won't always, but I let her kind of hold and throw them in. And she gets the idea. When Amber (who leads the other toddler music class in Bellingham, and who is way more chill about kids "experiencing music" however they want as long as it's safe) asks Chaya to put her scarves back in the box, she does it happily).

And the biggest thing so far? Just having designated places. I'm working more on keeping the clutter away. Most of the time, if the majority of Chaya's toys are put in big drawers, Chaya will focus on the toys already out. The more she sees, the more she grabs. I'm sure that will change, but she's in between "throw everything out of every cupboard and crevice" phases. And in the meantime, I'm having times where we put things back. She can help, but maybe not super well. She's young yet.

She does like to run laps holding the broom! And sometimes seems to use her animals as dust rags on the ground. Vroom vroom cleaning!

 Dishwasher Dalliances

I've largely been a reluctant patron of the electronic dishwasher. When I was single, it never made much sense to load up an entire vat full of dishes that I didn't even have. I mostly kept one of every dish and handwashed judiciously. Even when it was the two of us, it didn't seem like we went through dishes fast enough to justify using it all that often. During Chaya's brief flirtation with bottle and formula feeding, we started using it daily. But that didn't last particularly long. 

The problem has always been (1) one rack of the dishwasher inevitably fills up while the other rack is totally empty, or (2) the things I need daily are plentiful enough to require a fairly involved hand-washing regime, yet  not plentiful enough to justify running the dishwasher rapidly enough to keep up with demand. 

Leading to a discretionary system of what exactly it means for the dishwasher to be approaching capacity... And there are two of us making that judgment call!

This leads to all sorts of jiu jitsu and miscommunications between well-meaning spouses. I hand wash and hand wash and hand wash... then Andrew runs the half-full dishwasher without any of the things I would put in the dishwasher if I had only known it was about to be run. Alternately, I load up the dishwasher and run it without his stuff, which he then leaves in the sink (I have this visceral reaction to dishes in an early morning sink - I think I cannot actually sleep if I even sense there may be dishes there). Alternately, I load up the dishwasher, excepting he'll run it when he adds his dishes ... and then find out when I need several of the dishes that I loaded that he didn't really think it was full enough to run. 

Anyways, it actually is also environmentally more efficient to run modern dishwashers versus handwashing. If you can make it work.

So I have given it a one-week trial run. I lean heavily on the Instant Pot for dinner. And several small microwave dishes. And I'm finding that if I'm motivated, I can fill up a dishwasher fairly well in a day. So we're going back to daily usage and I'm trying to limit my instinctive handwashing.

And, it's not a 100% winning, but it's interesting. A few revelations

Day One: We don't have the sort of dishwasher that holds down smaller items, so it's challenging to load many of Chaya's little cups so they don't flip over and pool water during washing
On the bright side, great for washing Chaya's plastic toys, toothbrushes, even my keys. Lots of things that should be washed more regularly but otherwise weren't.

Day Two:
Does not get cooked on egg off. At all. A quick soak in cold water and a little scrub is way more effective. How much do I want those glasses to be sparkling?

Day Three:

Apparently slow cooked lentil marsala vaguely fushionesque stewy type thing is not 100% effectively cleansed in the dishwasher. There are some instructions on how to place pots to improve cleaning. I'm not sure how well I've followed them

Day Four:

Theoretically, the dishwasher would work better if I cleaned the filter. And the dishwasher. And I probably "should."

Though hold up!! Forget SHOULD. I've been practicing not just using "should" as "should" can be kind of a junk word laden with pointless guilt and morality. Instead I try to state the cause and effect. As in "If I clean the dishwasher, it will clean more effectively." Then I can weigh the options.

So. That. If I want to give the dishwasher a fair shot, it'd work better with a clean filter. But who said I'm a fair person. Dishwashers are for lazy people right?

Day Five:

The dishwasher has inspired me to branch out my cooking chops (and/or chips - tortilla chips all around!). Not always for a best. I do not think ovens and toddlers mix. Nor did my amaranth fritter recipe complement my baking pan and oven. I'm fairly certain I would have been better off pan frying them, but attempting to do anything that in-the-moment with a Chaya-beast going full gremlin about 20-15 minutes before dinner. The epic amount of presoaking before loading the pans into the dishwasher really undermined any pretense of time/energy saving But there was so much space in the bottom rack!! I had to!! And I will say that it actually did add a nice sparkle to those beleaguered baking pans.

Day Six:

Andrw asks "do you really want me to run the dishwasher tonight?" It doesn't look super full. I scramble to load things in that could use a wash. Chaya's little tray actually fits well in there. And our coffee mugs really could stand to be washed more often.

And we don't have any pets or potted plants, so many frenzied filling disasters averted on those grounds, anyways.

Takeaways:

I'm not sure if this is the way to go. But it's worth trying for a little while longer.

I got better at loading the upper racks so things don't flip. Some days it feels like a stretch to run it. Other days, we have excess loads. But running the dishwasher in the middle of the day is a pain and creates hassle.

I think the biggest impact is making Andrew's job easier, since I'm fairly motivated about loading the dishwasher. But there are worse things in the world.

It means unloading the dishwasher is one more thing to do in the morning, but I'm getting a bit of science behind doing that. And it makes routine cleaning of things that could stand to be washed more often a little easier. You can wash toothbrushes, sponges, toys (some toys). That's an awesome feature.