Would you like to know what I do all day while my kids are in school? I CLEAN.
I fold laundry, put away dishes, grocery shop, steam mop, and wipe down the mirrors, because the only time I can seem to accomplish these tasks is when no one else is at home. I revel in my pristine surroundings for an hour or two, feeling very smug, before watching all of my hard work go down in flames as the kids arrive home and dirty it all up again.
I’ve attempted to train my children to clean up after themselves—an endeavor that sounds good in theory, but totally sucks when put into practice. I try not to outwardly grimace as I watch my Kindergartner attempt to sop up the milk he knocked over. I look away, only to involuntarily look back and see that milk is now running onto the kitchen floor and spattering onto the legs of the table and chairs. Some messes are just too big and too gross for me to NOT intervene.
So, in order to keep the filth under control, I’ve developed a few ways to cope with it all. Amazingly, not one of them involves day drinking.
1. Poop: I have a recently-potty trained preschooler who still has not mastered the art of proper toilet hygiene, which is a nice way of saying that sometimes she gets poop all over her hands and occasionally on the wall. I keep Clorox Disinfecting Wipes in both bathrooms, so I can simultaneously scream “DON’T MOVE!” while I grab a disinfecting wipe and clean the surfaces before the mess spreads even further.
2. Handprints: They’re everywhere. And it’s not so much the print itself, but what it’s made from that bothers me. One time I literally watched my son use his hands to polish the front bumper of our minivan—bug guts, grease, grime, and all—before he came in for dinner. To put my mind at ease, everyone is required to scrub their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water (as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control) the moment they come inside the house.
3. Footprints: a fastidious mopper’s worst nightmare. The solution? Everyone takes their shoes off upon entering the house, period. Yes, we’re those people.
4. The bathtub: Sometimes kids poop in it on accident, and every time it happens, I look to the sky and ask, “WHY, LORD?!” And yet, it continues. My child and I are working on this, but in the meantime, thank God for Clorox Regular Bleach. To clean and disinfect the bathtub, pre-wash surface with clean water. Mix ½ cup of Clorox Regular Bleach per gallon of water. Allow solution to contact surface for at least 5 minutes. Rinse well, air dry, and pray it doesn’t happen again. (Source: Clorox.com)
5. Speaking of bathroom messes (there are so many!), I have two sons who are still working on their aim. After school, they’re tired and distracted and don’t always hit the mark. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are the easiest way to clean up urine, and while I’m down there wiping the floor I might as well wipe off the base of the toilet too. Because I’m a multitasker, and also because I LOVE DISINFECTING WIPES.
6. Toothpaste: It’s everywhere. It’s all over the sink and faucet, the mirror, hand towels, and the wall. It’s a twice-a-day problem that I simply do not understand, but what I do know is that when I let it go for a few days, it builds up into a thick, seemingly impenetrable coating. This is a problem for me, because with the toothpaste is saliva and germs, and who knows what else. The solution? Sturdy sponges with scrubbers on the back of them, preferably purchased in bulk. I wet them with hot water and wipe everything clean, following with all-purpose cleaner to make the surfaces shine.
7. Snack explosions in the microwave: So gross! The kids are pretty good about making their own snacks, but they haven’t quite mastered covering containers before heating food up in the microwave. My mother taught me how to clean fried grease and gunk off the inside by filling a microwave-safe glass or bowl halfway with water and adding a tablespoon of white vinegar. Heat for 5 minutes, remove, and wipe down with a clean paper towel. Done!
8. Chocolate syrup (or mustard, or ranch dressing) emergencies. Scene: kitchen. My child was shaking a bottle of ketchup and the lid flew open, or she was squeezing it incessantly, causing it to sputter and spray everywhere. By the time I discover the mess, its been sitting there awhile. I deal by dousing it in all-purpose cleaner, letting it sit for a few minutes, and wiping it up. (Have I mentioned that I buy paper towels in bulk?!)
9. Germs: I don’t mean regular school germs that kids bring home. I’m talking about slug guts, worm goo, and whatever else little boys get on their hands between the bus stop and the back door. I’ve already covered how to properly wash hands (see #2), but it’s also vital to wipe off doorknobs and handles that might have come in contact with snail entrails between homework and dinner. I use antibacterial wipes to clean everything those little hands come in contact with, and fight the urge to hose the boys down before they even set foot in the house.
10. Backpacks: They’re gross, and the kids plop them right on the kitchen table, which means that leaves, dirt, and whatever else coats the bottom ends up right where we eat—the bacterial equivalent of putting your feet on the table! I installed a hook system in our house and assigned each child a space to hang their bag the minute they step through the door. Problem solved…pretty much.
11. Homework gone wrong: Markers, highlighters, pencil shavings, eraser dust…the things my preschooler gets into when her big brothers are doing homework is endless. One afternoon I found her sitting on the kitchen floor next to the table, covered in white school glue. After totally freaking out, I decided to just let her play with it until it dried, and then we peeled it off together (hoping that she did not ingest any). As a side note, a very warm, soapy bath will pretty much get anything off a 3-year-old.
12. The shower: Oh, the shower. My oldest continues to amaze me with all the ways he can dirty up a small area. He makes science experiments out of shampoo, shaving cream, and anything else within his reach. He chops bars of soap into teeny, tiny bits and smears it all over the shower walls, putting my cleaning abilities to the test. Clorox ScrubSingles bathroom pads are perfect for this kind of situation—just wet, scrub, and toss. Perfect for a mother who is cleaning the shower while doing 58 other tasks at the same time! (Source: Clorox.com)
13. Pets: The kids are always so excited to see the cat after school, but all of the excitement sometimes makes her do things like throw up a hairball in the middle of the living room. To clean up pet messes, first I put on a pair of latex gloves and pick up the hairball while trying not to add my own vomit to the situation (I don’t do pets very well). After wiping as much of it up as possible, I clean the area with a damp cloth, followed by a dry cloth. Then, I apply a spot cleaner meant for carpet to the area, following the directions on the back of the bottle.
14. Toilet clogs: Our toilets always seem to clog up at the worst possible time, like when I’m cooking dinner or when we have guests. Inevitably, the person who clogged it in the first place never thinks to mention it until a sibling comes behind them and uses the bathroom. Disgusting! We have an industrial-sized plunger to get the toilet working again, and I always follow that by using Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner and taking a very, very hot shower. Because, toilets. (Source: Clorox.com)
15. The weird and random: Ridiculous things happen all the time over here that I’m never prepared for, like when a child coats his entire body with Vicks VapoRub. He literally sneaked into the bathroom, got it, and covered himself with it. It burned like crazy, but thank goodness is only dangerous if ingested. It took a lot of elbow grease to get it off, and all of our sinus passages were crystal clear for quite some time. Put your medicines and elixirs out of reach, always.
Photo: Getty/Elise Sinagra/Photolibrary