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Today is the last week day of Spring Break. (Our spring break was two weeks long; we went out of town for one of those weeks.) (The first week went by MUCH more quickly than the second week has.)

Since my husband is on call, I have two remaining days of entertaining Carla, and then she is back to school on Monday. It has been a long week, through no fault of Carla’s. But I am not cut out for two weeks of spring break. Nor for being solely responsible for entertaining my child. Why yes, I am one of those people who says I need a vacation from my vacation.

  • It is no secret that I am an introvert. And being a parent has only heightened my need for alone time, I think. Not because I don’t enjoy being with Carla. On the contrary: I love spending time with her, and I especially love it when I have enough energy to plan and do fun things with her. But I need time to myself. It is essential for my mental well-being. Normally, after spending a lovely, fun-filled week with my husband and child, in-laws, sister, and niece (as we did last week), I would prefer to close myself in my office with my computer, some tea, and maybe some Reese’s peanut butter eggs and not talk to ANYONE for a good three days. This is not hyperbole. I am 100% serious. Instead, this week, I had my lovely energetic and talkative child at home with me all day every day. I also had multiple appointments scheduled, because I figured they would help break up the time. Instead, I ended up compounding the problem by needing to interact with additional people. By today, I am DONE. I have a friend who is returning from spring break tomorrow who wants to get our kids together and I cannot FATHOM such an idea. I cannot wait until Monday when I am going to drop Carla off at school, come home, and sit in my office silently All. Day. Long. I am even dreading the social interaction that will come with drop off. Since it was a long break, Carla’s teachers sent the kids home with everything in their cubbies so the classroom could undergo a good thorough cleaning. So Carla has a bunch of stuff to take with her, which means I will need to walk with her to her classroom. And that means running into parents – parents I like! and am friendly with! and want to talk to! – who will want to chat about spring break. I don’t think I can do it, Internet.
Matcha latte

Reese’s peanut butter egg not pictured because I am brashly using an old photo from a previous post.

  • I’m afraid Carla has had a pretty boring spring break. I am trying really hard not to feel too guilty about it. We have been spending time together and playing together every day. And she did have a WHOLE WEEK of sunshine and grandparents and swimming pool and cousin. But I do worry that she’ll grow up and remember how I kept her closed up in the house for spring break and all she did was watch TV. (That is NOT all we’ve done! We’ve gone bike riding! And for walks! And to the grocery store twice! And we went out for donuts one morning! And to the library! And to Tuesday Morning and Kohl’s! Okay, okay, so it’s not the most exciting roundup of things, and, yes, there was definitely some TV in there, but we Did Things.)
Donut

This was Carla’s donut. I ate mine too fast to photograph it.

  • Playdates are not the solution. Perhaps you are giving me the side-eye, because this half of the break would have been much better and more enjoyable for Carla if I had managed to set up some playdates. This was my husband’s feeling, in fact. However, the execution is not quite so simple. First of all, the vast majority of our friends are also on spring break, in exotic locations like Australia and Bermuda. By “our friends” I mean families that have a kid that Carla knows and likes and a parent that I know and like. Second of all, of the families that are or may be in town, they all have multiple kids. And I really still don’t “get” how to do playdates with those families. If you invite one kid, are you automatically inviting ALL of the kids in the family? Seems like that’s only fair. But that means a playdate at my house isn’t a great idea; our house is small and we don’t really have toys for non-five-year-olds. Plus I am not of a mental state to have a bunch of people in my house (see above re: introvert). Which means that out-of-the-house playdates would be the best solution, but… that requires planning. And THAT’s exhausting. What can we do? Where can we go? Can I really handle chasing my kid and her friend and possible siblings through the natural history museum? Do I really want to drive 30 minutes to the indoor playground? It’s been rainy the past couple of days, so outdoor playgrounds are out. And most of these families are people I’m not super familiar with. There’s one friend Carla would love to play with, but I have never met either of her parents. It is so hard to gear myself up for meeting a brand-new person on a regular basis, and I am definitely not up for it this week, when I have already exhausted my small-talk stores on conversations with my in-laws. I don’t think sitting across from another parent, staring blankly and fretfully into the ether as I try to think of something halfway interesting to say, would make such a great impression. So! Nothing it is!

 

  • Plus, as I mentioned, I have already shot myself in the foot by scheduling additional adult interactions this week. The window madness continues, for instance. A friend had recommended someone she’d worked with, and he – no longer at the window company – had passed my name on to someone else who still works there. Apparently my friend had told him how frustrated I’ve been with the Hard Sales tactics, so they sent me their lowest pressure person very best salesman. And truly, he was excellent. I know that he was using tried and true sales tactics, just as the other salesmen had done. But his were invisible. By the time he left – THREE HOURS LATER OMG – I was completely sold on the idea of fiberglass windows, when before I had only wanted to consider vinyl. And I was willing to strongly entertain his bid, which was three times as high as several of the other window people I’d met with. He was that good. And he was very nice, as have been all the other window salespeople I’ve talked to. But THREE HOURS is much too long to be talking to a stranger, feigning interest in Window Facts that you’ve heard several times already, wondering how many times you need to offer someone water/soda/a sandwich over the course of three hours, and deflecting bored-child questions. When it was over, I felt mentally drained. And of course, my poor aforementioned bored child had to watch TV the entire time because when it was off, she kept interrupting. And this guy wasn’t really a Kid Person, so he had no idea how to interact with/deflect her, and kept getting flustered when she’d do something totally normal, like ask why the window he brought was so small or volunteer that we’d had donuts for breakfast or complain, “WHEN is he going to LEAVE?” After I discussed things with my husband, I remembered that our house is not a three-times-as-high-as-other-window-bids kind of place, and I have one more  window sales call to endure before we either make a decision or I run screaming into the sea.
  • As our one non-shopping excursion this week, we went to a Cat Café. If you are wondering what a Cat Café is, it is an establishment that has a tiny coffee-shop space on one side, and then a much larger Cat Habitat on the other, and people can pay to spend time with the cats. It recently opened in a nearby town, and I knew Carla would be over the moon to go. And the weather was obligingly dreadful, so there would be no bike riding or playing on the backyard playset. We had to make a reservation, and when we arrived there was a long line of other cat fans so I’m glad we didn’t try to wing it. The café part was truly minuscule. You could order coffee or tea and the staff would bring it to you in the cat habitat; we didn’t order anything; I would be terrified that I’d spill tea on a cat. The cat habitat was like an enormous living room, with lots of human seating and bookcases and tons of cat-friendly apparati to climb on and play with.
Cat cafe1

That orange cat didn’t budge from his perch the entire time, even when a tween-age boy started throwing cat toys at him to “get his attention.” And this may be the closest you’ll ever get to seeing a picture of me on this blog, so savor it, Internet.

Carla was the youngest person there that day, and I discovered that she doesn’t really GET cats. She loves them, that’s clear. And I don’t know why I’d expect her to GET cats, when she hasn’t spent any time around them outside of Pet Smart.  But she thought they would be snuggly and friendly in the way that dogs are. Oh, Carla. Cats are SO not dogs. She immediately went up to a cat that was playing with one of the café staff members (who was in the habitat with us the whole time, introducing the cats, telling us about their personalities and backgrounds, trying to get them to be playful) and tried to pet it, and the cat, who was in the middle of playing, bit her on the arm. She was FINE, it didn’t break the skin. But of course she was surprised and betrayed and it probably hurt a bit and so she cried for quite a while. I took her to the bathroom to wash her arm and tried to talk to her about how cats are. Independent. Feisty. Unpredictable. Claws and teeth. I’d done a little of that before, but it’s one thing for your mom to drone on and on about cats in the car and another to be confronted, face to face, with a cat-being-a-cat. She calmed down and we went back in and eventually she got some cats to chase balls and attack little cloth fish and she even got to pet some of them. She was much more interested in playing with the cats; I would have preferred to have a big purring cat on my lap, but they were (understandably) a little wary of all these new humans milling about and seemed more interested in playing, hissing at each other, or sleeping in nooks that humans couldn’t reach.

Cat cafe 3

This cat was very amenable to receiving scritches and pats.

I wasn’t sure that it was a successful visit. There was the rocky beginning. And not a single cat snuggled with us. We were there for an hour, though, which was enough time for the shock of being bitten to wear off. By the end of our appointment, Carla was begging me to take her back. We’ll see. I think it would be much more satisfying if it were just you (and your kid) and the cats, rather than being one of twelve additional people. But it was still a fun, novel experience.

Cat cafe2

All the books were cat themed, as was the decor.

  • One of the other ways I tried to Make Things Fun this week was by throwing a couple of Movie Nights into the spring break mix. Movie Night, Movie Afternoon, whatever. We’d make popcorn and snuggle up and Carla was pretty delighted by that. I think we may make Movie Nights a weekly event, she seems to get such a kick out of them. One of the movies we watched was the live action 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close and Joley Richardson and… Jeff… Not Bridges… Jeff… Daniels. Jeff Daniels. I don’t know why I get them mixed up. Oh! And Hugh Laurie is in there as well, pre-House days, I guess. This movie is from 2000, but it holds up pretty well. There are some mildly violent acts – Home Alone style. And some salty language (you, know, like “butt” and “shut up” – nothing too outlandish). Glenn Close is fantastic as Cruella De Vil. Her outfits alone make the movie worth watching; she wears press-on nails on the OUTSIDE of her gloves! And the whole time I was watching it, I was marveling at a) the sheer number of animals featured in the film and b) the dogs’ (in particular) stellar acting ability. Pongo is one well-trained pupper, that’s for sure. It was an entertaining movie, but the part that I found most scoff-worthy is that the Joley Richardson and Jeff Not-Bridges characters meet and then immediately, on their first “date,” decide to get married. I mean. What?! I get the whole love-at-first-sight thing. And falling in reckless, lifelong love seems perfectly acceptable for DALMATIANS, or, like, animated characters like Anna and Hans (although at least in that movie, Elsa and Kristof both object strenuously to getting engaged to a stranger) but… come on. Seems like a lazy way to move the plot forward. Couldn’t they have already been married… and then Pongo spots Perdita out at some adopt-a-thon event, and that’s how the dogs get together? Or maybe both dogs live at Joley Richardson’s house and Jeff Not-Bridges visits them as he’s getting to know Joley? Well. Aside from that ridiculously unbelievable plot point (yes, more unbelievable than animals talking to each other), it was a very enjoyable flick.
Dalmatians

photo from amazon.com

  • Did you know that there are no Os in the word “Dalmatians”? I did not, until I just wrote the bullet above.

 

  • I am really looking forward to getting back to my writing next week. Two weeks away from my work in progress is a LONG time. I did work on a story while I was out of town – a continuation of a story I started writing last year over spring break. But it feels like a distraction from the main project rather than anything meaningful.

 

  • And now, I must go start on The Folding of the Spring Break Laundry. I have been very successful in washing the clothing. Where I have been less successful is in the folding, which is really the ABSOLUTE WORST.
Laundry

My personal shame.

Did you have spring break this year? If so, did you do anything fun?

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This post is about that most controversial of marital subjects: division of chore labor.  Well, a sub-category, at least. So prepare for some boredom and talk of folding.

As the person who, for most of our relationship, works from home, I am typically the Main Laundry Person in our household. Over the years, we have developed a pretty solid laundry routine, wherein I have no trouble washing the clothing but then when it’s dry I leave it stuffed in the laundry basket or on the guest bed for months on end I fold Carla’s clothes and my own clothes, but only some of my husband’s clothing (underpants, socks) and then leave the rest of his stuff in neat piles so he can deal with it the way he wants to.

He’s not being weird. It’s just that there are specifications that I can’t meet.

For instance, he keeps all his undershirts in a specific drawer and he folds them in identical rectangles so that they all fit in the drawer.

Back when we were first married, I tried desperately to fold the shirts for him. I would go so far as to grab an already-folded shirt out of the drawer and try to use it as a folding template. Seriously. Is there anything more pathetic (or anti-feminist???) than a grown woman fretting over the perfect way to fold her spouse’s T-shirts? Picture me, setting a neatly-folded white Hanes T-shirt on the bed and then placing a recently (yes, we’ll go with recently) cleaned shirt on the same bed underneath it, and then trying to bend each sleeve into the center of the collar until the width matches the sample shirt, and then turning both shirts ninety degrees so I can then fold the bottom of the shirt up in such a way as to meet the desired depth and then triumphantly turning the newly folded shirt over to admire my obviously perfect work only to discover that I’ve somehow folded one sleeve in so far that the collar is not so much centered as all the way to the right, and the act of turning the shirt over has untucked the bottom and the finished product looks nothing like the template AT ALL, they are not in the same universe, this is a Picasso rendering of a folded shirt, maybe a raccoon wandered into the bedroom and tried to make a nest in it, it’s unclear. Certainly the raccoon could have done a better job. So I shake out the “folded” shirt in frustration and begin again. Ad infinitum.

Listen, it is no secret around here that I am terrible at things like folding. Anything that requires precision and straight lines is beyond my capabilities. Whatever. I am good at other things. I type pretty fast. I can load a dishwasher. I’m good with knots.

What I’m saying is, even though I used a template, back in those heady days of trying-to-please-my-husband-in-impossible-ways-early-marriage, the shirts would be too square or too thin or not look in any way like a shirt or whatever and my husband would end up refolding them.

I don’t really blame him. They were ridiculous. Sometimes I’d bury my worst attempts at the bottom of the pile and top them with the one shirt that looked somewhat like a folded shirt should look and less like a deflated smear of whipped cream with a “tagless” tag.  So I knew they weren’t up to his standards.

But I have to tell you something, and that is that I have my own drawer of T-shirts. T-shirts that I folded, all by myself. And they all fit in the drawer. Maybe not perfectly, maybe there’s some squashing. But my T-shirts are for exercise and sleeping, and his T-shirts are for wearing under other shirts, so an errant wrinkle here and there shouldn’t be a big deal. What I’m saying, I guess, is that while I understand his T-shirt folding preferences, I don’t think that they are necessarily any better than my own. Or… maybe they are better, but not so much better that they should require their own individualized folding process. And that maybe he should have just let me fold the shirts and be done with it.

I’m not saying that he’d chastise me or anything. He wouldn’t. Probably, in his infinite patience slash kindness he would thank me. But when he’d inevitably refold the T-shirts, I would feel such a mixture of emotions. Shame, for the horrid failure of my fingers to assemble his shirts into something resembling folded. Frustration, for spending time and energy trying to do something that he felt compelled to redo. Irritation at my husband for being so particular (as though I don’t have a specific way I fold, sort, and hang my own clothes). Wounded exasperation, because I was doing something NICE for him, and he didn’t APPRECIATE it. And despair, because certainly this was an indication that my marriage was bound for failure and also did I possibly have some sort of neurological disorder that was impairing my ability to fold.

I mean, seriously. If you go out of your way to do something nice for someone else, shouldn’t they APPRECIATE IT? So what if it isn’t perfect? It’s the THOUGHT, right? Whatever happened to not looking a Chore Horse in the mouth????? This Chore Horse is SAD!!!!!!

You may wonder why my husband continues to live in my home with me when I tell you the T-shirt thing is just one example of many. The only other example I can come up with is also laundry related: I wash the towels at regular intervals and, because I enjoy being at Towel Zero, that usually means that they are all in the wash at once. And sometimes I forget to, you know, dry the towels. Or maybe if I do dry them, I forget them in the dryer. And then my husband gets mad because he inevitably gets in the shower and then turns off the shower and realizes not only are there no towels hanging helpfully off of the towel rack but there are NO TOWELS AT ALL in the linen closet.

And when he gets annoyed at me, I get petulant. I WASHED THE TOWELS, MAN. Is that not enough for you? (I mean, I also apologize and go get him a towel. Obviously. Am not a sadist.)

Well.

When I get beyond the stage of exasperation, I completely understand where he is coming from. I am not so morally superior that I don’t have preferences for how I do or like certain things. I can’t think of any examples now, of course, because that would cede too much ground, but I am sure they exist. And I do, really truly, understand the rage that comes from exiting a shower, cold and wet and shivery and possibly late for work, and finding that all your towels are placidly soaking in OxiClean for the twenty-third consecutive hour. Let’s be honest. It’s a wonder he hasn’t divorced me and taken all the towels.

What I’m trying to say is that I get where he’s coming from.

And he is, or at least has been on multiple occasions, right that sometimes there just is a BEST way to do things.  The towels, right. I mean, obviously the Best Way is to dry them and put them back in the closet and maybe even hang one on the towel rack for easy post-shower access.

And, why not, let’s talk MORE about towels. For years, my husband would refold the towels that I’d just folded. Shame, frustration, irritation, wounded exasperation, despair. He claimed there was a Best Way. I maintained that my way got them done and folded and in the closet, therefore it was Good Enough. But then he taught me how to fold them (somehow what I cannot achieve with undershirts, I excel at with towels) and he is right: when a stack of towels is folded exactly the same way, it fits better in the closet and it’s easier to fetch down a new towel when you need one! And the rest of the towels don’t slump all over the shelves in desperation! So I acknowledge that there is a Best Way to do some things. Maybe many things. But not all. NOT ALL. Sometimes DONE is good enough.

Have I established that I understand a) there can actually be a best way to do some things and b) when I don’t/am incapable of the best way, my husband is justified in being irritated?

Okay. So let’s go back to my frustration. The frustration of doing something – perhaps not best but done – and having it rejected.

At what point do you say, I love this person and will exhaust my body and soul trying to execute a task to his exact specifications and when do you say, Spouse, love of my life, accept it the admittedly inferior way I do it as Good Enough, or do it your frogspam self?

The towel thing is something I have to work through; it’s mean, to leave a person dripping and towelless with no recourse. Doing towel laundry half way is most definitely NOT the Best Way OR Good Enough.

As I mentioned above, we have evolved a workaround for the shirts issue. I just don’t fold them. I don’t like it, because it makes the task seem unfinished. And it reminds me of my Folding Weakness, and no one wants that shoved in their face week after week. But it works. I don’t have to not-fold his shirts for endless hours. He doesn’t have to refold the Dadaist art I’ve presented to him as a pile of folded laundry. And his shirts are all meticulously rectangled and fitted into their drawer. Everyone wins.

But there are probably oodles of OTHER things where the specificity of the end result is less critical. Like the loading of the dishwasher. Does it really matter that my husband insists on putting the bowls on the top rack of the dishwasher when I would put them on the bottom rack? No, not really, as long as they get clean and don’t prevent other dishes from being included in the wash cycle.

Does it really matter that I leave a puddle of water on the counter next to the sink, when that space is reserved SOLELY for dirty dishes, and when it is washed each night before bed anyway? No, not really.

Does it really matter that I believe the washer can, as it claims to, hold laundry up to the “top row of holes” while my husband believes I am overfilling it and preventing it from agitating properly? (I ask you, when have I ever prevented something, including my own self, from agitating properly???) Since neither of us has ever unloaded the dryer and found a still-dirty item of clothing, not really, no.

My personal opinion is that there is very rarely a Best Way to complete a chore. The person doing the chore should, within reason, have freedom to complete it in his or her individual way. Complete it being the key term; I would be the first to agree that washing a towel and then NOT DRYING IT is not “completing” that particular chore. And if someone is kind enough to do a chore – by it’s very nature a thing that few people actually want to spend their time doing – the other person should be grateful and not nit-picky. And if doing it in some perceived Best Way is such a big deal to the other person, well then, he or she can take it on him- or herself for the future.

This is where I want to hear what egregious errors your own partners have made under the auspices of Doing A Chore. And I want to hear your examples of which things have a clear Best Way and those that can be completed successfully in many ways. And your squabbles about Best vs. Good Enough. Tell me all of them!

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