household duties

It Only Gets Worse!


My neighbor Ann stopped by the other day.  She had taught four of my kids in elementary school and then she was one of my college instructors when I started school.  She said she had a folder of things that I had written about parenthood and child rearing and had shared with her 20 years ago!  A few days later, she rang the doorbell and handed me the folder.

These are little stories of survival I had written while I was in the throws of parenthood.  When resources were scarce, time was the most valuable thing in the world, and everyone was working hard at learning how to live, learn, love and have fun.

I remember sometimes just being overwhelmed and wanting to quit, but I couldn’t quit.  I had to get up everyday, be pretty cheerful, and try my best to meet people’s needs and love them.  I know that I fell short.  I knew it then and I know it now, but nonetheless, I always did the best I could with what I knew and what I had to work with.

In order to survive, from time to time, instead of hurting someone, I would go to the Kaypro computer my brother in law had given me and I would write stories that expressed my experiences.  It was a way to vent and then I usually felt better or whatever led me to my wits end was no longer a crisis.

There is a little truth and a little fiction in all of the stories, but I think they accurately reflect the experiences of most parents at sometime.

Here is the my first post.

Mysterious Disappearances—The Hose Zone

I know I can’t be the only one.  Statistically, if it happens to me it must also be happening to someone else!  So, you won’t mind if I confess that things disappear at our house.  The three most popular disappearing items are; socks, scissors, and working flashlights.

On any given laundry day, all of the clean socks are set aside until the washing is finished for that day.  Then we sort.  I call it “Family Fold,” the boys just grumble.

 Without exception, there are several, sometimes dozens of leftover, or unmatched socks.  For years I worried and pondered where the mates for these lonely singles might be.  Beds have been bared and searched and washing machines pulled from the wall.  I have re-checked the inside of the dryer and looked in the lint trap, but never to any avail.  Then one summer, while my older and wiser sister was visiting, she solved the mystery for me.  She said resolutely, because that is how she says everything—with great knowledge and authority—“The socks are in the Hose Zone.”  Appropriate musical score should come to mind at this point.

The “Hose Zone” is another dimension somewhere between a child’s feet and the folding and sorting table.  It has never been fully explored, but we know it exists because of documented disappearances like I experience.  The “Zone” is non-selective in its choice of socks.  It will take stripes from one load, and solid colored socks from the next.  One thing is for sure, once a sock enters the “Hose Zone,” it will never be seen again!  If per chance a missing sock is found at some later date, you can be sure that it was only lost, and NOT in the “Hose Zone.”

We have tried several approaches to solve the problems caused by large amounts of mismatched socks.  We have tried the “lump them all in a mismatch basket” approach. This simply means that all of the mismatched socks are thrown into a specified basket, box, or closet.  Each person is then responsible for getting whatever he needs to cover his feet.  Wrong-side-out, different lengths, odd colors—it doesn’t matter you just cover your feet.

Another possible solution was to try to match all we could and then keep a running supply of mismatchers to replenish pairs.  When one of a good, matched pair got a hole in the heel or showed signs of great wear, we could draw from our vast supply of odd socks to replace a discard.  This worked fairly well, but I always had this mess of odd socks hanging around.

 The third idea was to have a puppet day.  We got out all of the mismatched socks and grandma’s button can, yarn scraps, glue, and felt pieces and set out to make sock puppets.  I thought it would be a fun activity.  Unfortunately, we could not find any scissors.  Which brings me to the second item that always disappears in my house.

 Mysterious Disappearances Part Two –I Need My Scissors 

Trying to make sock puppets was a great idea.  We loved doing relatively creative things that seemed marginally silly, and we especially excelled at doing things that made messes.  As we gathered all of the materials, we needed scissors.  Since my second child was born, I have never been able to find the scissors I needed when or where I needed them and nothing I have tried has worked.  We looked in all the same places we looked for missing socks, except under the washing machine, but could not find any. 

All of my attempts to keep my scissors, have multiple pairs of scissors, or have scissors that cut have been futile.  Designating special places to hang them, assigning special drawers to hold them and every other effort has been unsuccessful.  I have bought extra pairs and put some of them with the art stuff, some with the sewing supplies and some in the kitchen utility (junk) drawer.  No matter what I tried I never had scissors when I needed them.  Once or twice a year, after thorough investigation and search parties, often motivated by bribery, I have retrieved one or two pair.  I offered rewards as high as $5.00 for my good scissors to be returned.  Usually, I just ended up buying a new pair so I could put a button back on a shirt.

Once however, I hit pay dirt, literally.  While working in the back yard, I unearthed my beaters for the kitchen hand mixer, my roll of aluminum foil, and two pair of scissors.  My boys had built a fort and a stage and then performed rock and roll Band Stand.  They had borrowed my foil to cover the beaters to use as microphones, of course.  The scissors, unfortunately, had been used to cut the you know what, aluminum foil. 

I bought some new scissors for myself, hid them, and presented the kids with their own rusted, dull bladed foil cutters.  You might imagine that they kept track of their scissors and never touched my new expensive sewing scissors.  Bu I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

 Mysterious Disappearances Part Three—Let There Be Light!

 Nothing is more puzzling to me, though, than how we can own eight, count them e-i-g-h-t flashlights and never be able to find one that works!  We keep two in the kitchen cupboard, one in the camping box, one big one in the garage utility closet, and others in the bedrooms. It seems like I buy batteries almost weekly.  The flashlights, of course are always put back where they come from (silent snicker heard here).  Unlike the scissors, I can often find a flashlight; I just can find one that works! 

One evening when I needed a flashlight, I knew right where to look.  I went to the kitchen cupboard and grabbed the one most recently filled with new batteries.  It felt kind of light to me, so I shook it.  No batteries!  I briefly wondered where they might be, but the possibilities were limitless.  So, without hesitation, I just picked up the second flashlight.  The batteries were not new, but as far as I knew, they still worked.  Wrong.  No light.  Not to worry, I thought, there are always extra batteries on hand.  I reached further back into the cupboard, which is always risky, and pulled out a package of new EverReadys and started to take them out of the package.  I quickly discovered that I was holding “C” cell batteries and the flashlights to be filled needed “D” cells. 

Not to be unraveled at this point, I went to the garage utility closet, eagerly grasped the shiny silver flashlight and confidently flicked the switch.  Nothing happened.  I knew these batteries were good because we had just replaced them for a Cub Scout ceremony that week.  I asked one of my boys about it and was not happy to hear that the batteries were indeed good, but that he had dropped the light on the way home from the church and the bulb was apparently broken.

Being clever, and getting desperate, I would just take the good batteries out and use them in the kitchen flashlight.  Once again, I was foiled because these too were “C” cell batteries.  I’m sure my behavior was getting frantic and my frustration was visible.  I began to look in every stash and could not find a working combination of flashlight, batteries and working bulb.

I found rotten, leaking battery acid messes and broken bulbs and lense.  In some of my stashes, I could not find the flashlight that belonged there at all.  They must have been with my scissors.  I decided to look out of the box and search in unexpected places.  I called for all games, walkmen (you can Google that word for a definition), hand held video games, ghetto-blasters, tape players (see Google), and electronic “100-in-one electrical activities” boards.  You may think these strange places to look for flashlights, but remember I had a flashlight; all I needed were two “D” cell batteries.  Voila!  In the ghetto blaster were not two, but six “D” batteries.  I only took two of them.  I carefully placed then into the barrel of the flashlight, I turned on the switch and it worked. I grinned with elation at my perseverance and determination.   A lesser woman would have given up.

Unfortunately after the 45 minutes of frantic hunting, momnesia had set in and I had forgotten why I wanted a flashlight in the first place.