Uncluttering at Last!

So many fun things to write about:

Sam made the Wall of Fame again!

Adorable Jack-Mouse spent part of his morning very carefully laying out a trail of cheese bits for a mouse to follow. And then he dutifully acted the mouse by moving along the line, consuming each piece.

Quinn has started to spontaneously burst into song: Twinkle Twinkle, the ABC song, the Wonder Pets theme. And he adorably adjusts some of the words when he can’t remember how it’s supposed to go.

My death house claimed its latest victim: Widget, who banged his head first on the metal support pole in my basement, and second, on Quinn, who was, oddly, completely unaffected. (Okay, this one isn’t fun, but really just so typical of my life.

But what I’m really excited by is the fact that I finally started my winter uncluttering project, beginning with that most cluttered of spots: my kitchen.

First, I bought and mounted a wonderful coat hook, thus solving our problem of coats left on the floor, hanging on dining room chairs, and thrown on counters. We did have a hook-board that held backpacks and such, but it was just not effective for backpacks and coats. So this new strip of six hooks (each of which actually is two hooks) is destined to improve my quality of life immensely.

I redistributed my cabinet items to better places, moving frequently used pots from under the counter to an above-counter cabinet, with a dedicated shelf specifically for lids.

I cleaned everything off my counter space except for the things that I actually want to have there. I consolidated some drawers and made the extra drawers homes for some of those hard-to-find-a-place-for things that generally get left on counters.

I removed a slew of items completely that haven’t been used in years—or ever. That specialized cake pan I won in a raffle? It has a new home in the garage.

I used to have an entire cabinet filled with fancy glassware, fancy tablecloths, and special placemats. I reorganized all of those on upper shelves of other cabinets, so now I’m using those shelves for things I use on a more daily basis.

I had two locations for spoons, spatulas, ice cream scoops and all of that kind of thing. Most of those things don’t get used very often. So I emptied a drawer of never-used mixing bowls and made that my occasional-use items drawer. And now my other two spots are much easier to use. I also threw away old incomplete sets of measuring cups and spoons that had been replaced months ago.

But the best? The cabinet into which is thrown all of our party supplies, candles, vases, plastic utensils, paper plates, and liquor. (Because, really, shouldn’t kids party hats live right next to scotch?) I tossed cake decorating goods that I used part of for Sam’s second (!) birthday, organized and stacked the paper plates, and generally completely improved the efficiency of that space. Oh, and by the way, remind me never to buy any more plastic forks or spoons because I have about a thousand and six of each. Let me know if you need to borrow any.

And while I did all of this, Scooba cleaned my floors.

What a great start for my weekend. (I’m going to be super bummed when it’s all dirty and cluttered by Monday.)

My Mysterious Benefactor

I’ve been a little tired lately. And a little worried about Jack. And lacking in downtime. And living in a house that constantly needs to be cleaned.

So imagine my joy and surprise when I came home today and found a plate of assorted cookies on my doorstep. Somebody loves me! (Or somebody put a plate of cookies intended for someone else on my doorstep by mistake, but I prefer to think that somebody loves me.)

If you’re out there, mysterious benefactor, know that you totally made my day.

DCMM: Best. Field. Trip. Ever.

Do you want to know how I feel about field trips? I don’t like ‘em. Last year my oldest’s preschool class went on a field trip to the recycling center, an excursion that ranks right up there in the top five worst preschool days ever. So now that my four-year-old, Jack, is in that class, and we were scheduled to go back, I was nervous.

First of all, Jack has been in a spectacularly bad mood all week, and this morning was no exception. It didn’t seem like the right time to drag him and my two-year-old around the grounds of the recycling center, up four flights of stairs to watch garbage trucks from a glassed-in observation deck, and then walk back to the car, which is what we did last year.

It turns out, however, that we got totally screwed last year, and that there is a far better tour of the Recycling Center that most kids get to go on. And this one was awesome.

The tour started with a presentation by a recycling center employee about recycling in general. What can and can’t be recycled, for instance. Did you know that even if a plastic container has the little recycling symbol on it, it can’t be recycled unless it’s a bottle—that is, the neck is smaller than the base?

Did you know that all the recycling is hand-sorted by people? But that there are various machines throughout the process that do stuff automatically? Like the broken glass sorting machine, which shakes all the little pieces of broken glass through a screen? And that there is a blower that sorts out non-recyclable items? The blower doesn’t move steel cans, but it blows other recyclable items, like aluminum and plastic bottles into a close bin, and other, lighter plastics get blown farther away into another bin? Who knew that non-recyclable plastics are all lighter than recyclables?

Did you know that grocery bags can’t be recycled at the center, so you shouldn’t put them in your bins at home? The only place you can recycle them is at the grocery store.

And did you know that although aluminum and steel cans can get turned back into the same items within two months, things like milk jugs can’t get clean enough so they have to be turned into detergent bottles, plastic garbage cans, and other hard plastic items? And plastic soda bottles can be magically turned into things like T-shirts?!

How cool is all of that?

The tour concluded with a trip (up only one flight of stairs) to a long, open observation deck where the kids, and the very interested parents could actually see all the workers and machines doing the sorting. It was amazing to see the conveyor belt with all the jumbled together items get picked through and sorted out until they were turned into little square bales of recycled material.

If you live in Montgomery County and want to see something that will blow your mind, insist that your school take you here. This field trip won even me over. And Jack, he of the tantrums and uncooperativeness? He enjoyed the trip on the only hour all week thus far that he hasn’t been almost unbearably cranky.

Jean has posted another version of this, including her kids’ reactions, at Stimeyland.

Best. Field. Trip. Ever.

You may know how I feel about field trips. I don’t like ‘em. Last year Sam’s preschool class went on a field trip to the recycling center, an excursion that ranks right up there in the top five worst preschool days ever. So now that Jack is in that class, and we were scheduled to go back, I was nervous.

First of all, Jack has been in a spectacularly bad mood all week, and this morning was no exception. It didn’t seem like the right time to drag him and Quinn around the grounds of the recycling center, up four flights of stairs to watch garbage trucks from a glassed-in observation deck, and then walk back to the car, which is what we did last year.

It turns out, however, that we got totally screwed last year, and that there is a far better tour of the Recycling Center. And this one was awesome.

This trip was in a whole other location that the other, and despite unfriendly warnings such as “Stay in your cars until exactly the time that the tour starts,” and “There are no public bathrooms,” this excursion rocked my world.

A recycling center employee read the kids a story, taught them a song and dance about recycling, and gave them (and us parents) helpful tips about what can and can’t be recycled, complete with hands-on demonstrations. When she had the kids each select an item to put in a recycling bin, I was sure Jack was going to pick up a glass bottle and hurl it into the bin, thus spraying himself, the employee, and at least a couple other kids with shards of glass. I was happily surprised when, although he did choose a glass bottle, he gently placed it into the bin just like the rest of the kids.

The kids had good answers for the lady when she asked them about how to recycle and what they put in their bins at home. I particularly liked when one of the little girls raised her hand and said, “I give my cardboard to gerbils.” Alex had made the very same observation not a week before. Yay for our little recycling rat-buddies!

Quinn was less enamored with this part of the presentation. I had to sacrifice my camera to him in order to keep him from making too much noise, and ended up with more than 50 pictures on my memory card. Pictures like these:


After all of this, the lady showed the kids pictures of what to expect when they went to see the recycling machines and gave a couple little demos about how the machines work. Then she pulled out a bunch of earplugs. (Ironically packaged individually, although she did have us give her the plastic wrappers so she could take them to the grocery store to recycle them. I guess it’s true that the grocery store is the only place you can recycle plastic bags.)

The earplugs were not met with joy by all. Jack was delighted by them:


Quinn was not:


One mom, whose daughter refused to wear earplugs, generously agreed to stay behind with the no-foreign-objects-in-MY-ears group, and the rest of us headed up one tiny flight of stairs to see shit get recycled from an open observation deck:


It was soooooo cool. Jack, who had been a little fidgety during the presentation, was fascinated by the big machines and all the workers who were handsorting the items. We got to see the broken glass sorter, the bulldozers moving giant piles of cardboard, the finished bales of recycled product, and the conveyor belt at the beginning with all the recyclables jumbled together.

I was absolutely spellbound. I almost forget Jack was with me. And while it seemed like one of the worse places to actually work, I could have stayed there to watch for quite a bit longer than the 15 or so minutes we had.

I highly recommend this field trip. And that’s high praise from me, She Who Cannot Stand Transporting a Group of Preschool Kids Out of Their Contained Room for Any Length of Time.

Stimey has posted another version of this post, with some of the interesting recycling facts she learned today, at DC Metro Moms. Check it out to find out what happens to the stuff in your blue bins after the big recycling truck picks it up!

Blech.

I had one of those days today. You know what I’m talking about, the kind when voluntary commitment to a psychiatric unit sounds like a good idea because at least they’d probably give you sedatives and a bed and no one under five feet tall would demand anything of you. And if there were crazy people around you, it at least wouldn’t be your job to take care of them.

My morning involved tantrums (Jack) and tears (me). The afternoon included a one-hour respite (thank you, L, for my one peaceful period of the day) followed by dumb decisions by me to drag three kids to karate and then math night at the elementary school. Needless to say, there was more craziness, tantrums, and at bedtime, tears (this time by the kids). And I just realized that I don’t think I’ve eaten a bite of anything all day.

I’ve decided not to crush you all with the details, but I just needed to do some venting.

Thank you. And now I’m going to go track down some food. Hopefully chocolate.

Assorted Reasons Why Quinn is a Wee Bit of a Psychopath.

1. We all know that Quinn takes a plethora of balls to bed with him every night, but tonight he insisted on taking a rolling pin to bed.

2. The other week he carried a pre-packaged salad with him to the bus stop to pick up Sam. He proceeded to demand to carry a salad with him on several occasions over the next several weeks.

3. The child used to be able to not poop for two weeks or more. Now we Miralax the hell out of him, so he has no choice. He still tries though. When we started him on it, he was still able to hold it in for several days.

4. Even if it’s 40 degrees outside, he refuses to wear a coat. It wasn’t until I found him a coat that looked “exactly like Sam’s” that he became willing to wear a coat to pick Sam up at the bus stop. In the rain. If any of you dare to tell him that the inside of his coat is black and not brown and that it’s not reversible like Sam’s, I’ll kill you. I mean it. Don’t test me. (He also made me buy him a backpack that is just like Sam’s, but I think that has more to do with idol-worship than psychosis.)

5. He hates everything about getting dressed and screams and fights wildly the entire time we’re trying to smash him into his clothes. Then he’s totally fine. Until he gets a drop of water on himself and he demands new clothes, only to scream and freak out while we’re trying to re-dress him.

6. The be all, end all reason why Quinn is weird? He doesn’t make tears. You heard me. The boy has never, in his entire life created a tear. Don’t get me wrong, he cries. He cries all the time, but the crying is the dry sort of scream/sobbing that lacks the sympathy-inducing side effect of tears rolling down his face. I spent the first couple months of his life eagerly awaiting the tears. Now I’ve given up. Even when he was a baby and we thought he had a tumor and the people at Children’s Hospital put a tube up his nose and into his stomach for contrast for a CT scan, he didn’t cry. He came close; his eyes watered the smallest amount, but nothing fell out. His doctor doesn’t seem to be as weirded out about it as I am. Evidently he thinks Quinn has enough moisture to keep his eyes healthy, but no more. I think it’s closer to the truth to say he just might be a robot.

I tried to stop writing this, but things kept popping into my mind. Fortunately, I think most of them can be summed up with this sentence: He’s two years old. But the medical oddity inherent in item 6 makes him entirely unique in my mind.

Gerbil Watch: A Farewell to Gerbils

The gerbils go home tomorrow, and I think you’ll believe me when I tell you that they will be sorely missed. Wouldn’t you miss the little guy there at the left? Look at his cute little paws with his dagger-sharp adorable black nails.

Not all is lost though. They are due to come back at Christmas time. Unless, that is, I’ve totally freaked my friend out by Gerbil Watch ’07, leading her to not trust me with the little dudes again.

But if they do come back, rest assured that I will not, however, subject you to another week of photos of gerbils that only I and my friend and her daughter think are cute.

You would be surprised how many photos you have to take of gerbils before you get a good one. My iPhoto library is now chock full of gerbil shots. I could publish a calendar.

I think they’re ready to go home. I sensed this after I saw that they had trashed their hotel room last night.

Maybe you don’t remember or can’t tell, but their cage used to be neater.

Fare thee well, Robert and Gnocchi. Fare thee well.