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Tuesday Advice Column: When You’re Expecting Houseguests

June 26th, 2007

Oh, Friday Advice Column, how I miss you! But I have been busy. And Swiffering.

How about a Tuesday Advice Column instead?



Dear Wacky Mommy:

Do your children pick up after themselves? Do they put their own clothes away? If so, how do you get them to do this?


A Little Messed-Up

Dear Messed-Up:

My kids do pick up after themselves. They help fold laundry and put it away; they have been known to sweep. My daughter has always been pretty good about it; my son has needed prompting. Then they both went into a phase where anytime you asked them to do anything they stutter-cried and freaked out and generally had huge temper tantrums.

This has gone on for about a year. (So sue me. I’ve been tired. And there are two of them and one of me.)

Hockey God and I are now presenting a United Front. Who knew this could be so successful? Instead of me providing maid service, we now request that they pick up their rooms and put away clothes. We give them fair notice — none of this crap, this shrieking “Do it now! Now! You are such little piglets! Aiiiiiiiiiiiii! Why does God hate me?” etc.

Not that I have ever shrieked things like that.

No, not I.

Our ammunition? Large, empty cardboard boxes. That’s right. First of all — if you want the kids to put their clothes away, you have to make it kid-friendly. A closet and hangers they can get to, drawers that aren’t stuffed so full that tiny fingers can’t manage to open and close them. We put up plastic clothing hooks and allowed each kid a chair to throw clothes on. Then I went through the drawers and we winnowed them down so they aren’t stuffed full.

That filled up one box.

The other box is just a threat. When we say “Pick up,” whatever doesn’t get picked up after a reasonable amount of time goes into the box and disappears. Maybe it goes to the basement, maybe to the attic, maybe to Goodwill. Maybe it goes to the Mini-Nekkid Neighbor and she gets to play with all of their cool stuff and they don’t. Nyah-nyah.

Does this sound cruel? I don’t care.

Someday their partners will thank me.



Dear Wacky Mommy:

When you’re expecting guests, what do you do first?


A Reader

Dear Reader:

It depends. Are they staying with you, or just doing a fly-by? In either case, start with the obvious. Clean the bathrooms, sweep and mop the bathroom and kitchen floors, do the dishes. Do the laundry or hide it well. If they’re staying with you, put clean sheets on the guest bed, pick a bouquet of flowers and leave out bottled water. Clear out a drawer or two and space in the closet.

Clean out the fridge and grocery shop.

Figure out a meal plan (if they’re doing a fly-by, consider dinner out and dessert and drinks back at the house). And please — enjoy. Don’t stress out about everything you haven’t done. But for God’s sake, and really I am begging you here — scrub the toilet and scrub the sink. And put out fresh towels. I cannot deal with a disgusting bathroom when I’m visiting someone’s home.

And this is not an ad for Swiffer, I swear, but I adore the new battery-operated Swiffer Wetjet and the power-pack Swiffer Sweepervac. You mop the floor with a space-age battery-powered mop. My kids loved this. And you sweep/vacuum with a cordless Swiffer sweeper.

Look — you know what a whore I am for new products. But anything that gets my kids enthused about cleaning? (And they both were. It was awesome.) It’s a beautiful day around Wacky House when the kids beg to clean. Hockey God’s uncle was in town last week and I got the house cleaned in one-third the time because the little rascals pitched in. I was actually relaxed when he got here.




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