Hatching Our Own Wrecking Crew

Remodelby Anniel1/1/16
There are fundamental differences between men’s and women’s approaches to life. A man, for instance, in order to make some money will suggest living in a house which needs remodeling before it can be sold. That sounds like a good idea to a woman. SHE, however, wants the project done NOW, preferably even yesterday, while HE has a more long range goal in mind. Never do their visions meet.

We found ourselves in a position of (finally) needing to finish remodeling the home we were living in. The house had been large enough when we had two children, but the third baby had stretched our limited space. We hurried to get more work done in order to place the house on the market and get a new home built on land we owned farther from town.

I, of course, was grumpy because we ought to have done much of the work long before. Women can be real slave-drivers where their homes are concerned, and we often forget that when you have the money you don’t have the time, and when you have the time you don’t have the money. That’s just how these things work, and men get blamed. Sorry, but life is not fair.

While we finished the remodeling, we had to keep the new baby in a portable crib for several months, and then we made a little bit of room for a playpen for him to sleep in for the next two years.

We finally installed new carpeting in the living room and linoleum in the kitchen and dining room. The linoleum was shiny and beautiful and I loved it. We had only one bathroom to finish and the contractor had begun work on the new house, so we started packing.

One afternoon we heard giggling from the kitchen and went to check on the kids. Our daughter and the 2 year-old had dragged in a play Tuff-Stuff wheel barrow, pulled out a new 5 lb. bag of flour, tore it open, and dumped it in the wheel barrow. Then they crawled up on the counter, got some cups down and began pouring flour all over the floor and each other. Only their eyes showed in their totally white faces and bodies. Alas, no cameras were instantly on hand in those days.

Do you have any idea how slippery new and shiny linoleum is when flour is dumped on it? The flour acts like ball bearings, as Bear found out when he stepped onto the floor and began slipping and sliding all over the dining area. His gyrations were very energetic until he finally grabbed the table and lay over it. Miracle of miracles, he did not fall, although he pulled every muscle in his body.

Tip – You MUST vacuum flour-covered children, especially their hair, before placing them in a tub. Flour turns to thick paste when it gets wet and it’s a wonder if the drain doesn’t get plugged. Live and learn every day.

We finally sold the remodeled house and moved to our pristine brand new home.

When three young children, very close in age, decide to take a wrecking ball to a new house, they can damage it in unique ways. If they form a collaborative effort, it is most effective.

As I said, we had finally moved into our new home. It was by far the nicest house I had ever lived in, and, of course our sweet children, the boys just turned 5 and 2-1/2 and the girl barely 4, could be trusted to play unsupervised in the large daylight basement Family Room because there was nothing to get into. Mothers can be so sadly trusting.

Unfortunately for me, there were several crank windows opening out on the bare, very muddy and rocky unlandscaped yard. It was also pouring rain out, and there was a sofa backed up under one of the windows. Of course the children found it easy to crawl up on the back of the couch, crank open the window, and proceed with their fun.

Oblivious, I was upstairs cooking dinner when my visiting father-in-law came into the kitchen and hemmed and hawed for a minute before saying,
“I really didn’t know whether to come and get you or just clean it up by myself, but. . . Well, I guess you’d better come downstairs.” I think I remember turning the stove off before descending into the waiting chaos.

A basket of once clean and folded clothes was on the floor by the couch. My little darlings had gotten out a small children’s pail and shovel, put the youngest boy out the window where he stood in the muck and shoveled rocks and mud into the pail, and passed it to his sister on the back of the couch. She poured the mud and rocks down the wall, including the heat registers, onto the couch and into the clean clothes basket, while the oldest boy picked out the rocks to creatively arrange them. The empty bucket was sent back out the window to enable the bucket brigade in its important work.

I think I only gasped and cried, but I might have screamed. Grandpa quickly took the kids off to the shower while I got busy on clean-up. I’m sure I even used the pail and shovel to dump the rocks and mud back out the window. Then I had to wash the window, scrub down the wall and heat register, and the couch and carpet. The coup-de-grace awaited when I finally turned to the basket of clothes and found that the brats had not only poured mud all over the clothes, they had draped my bra over the top of the basket, and filled both cups full of rocks. Arrgh! It was such a personal indignity.

Rewashing, drying and refolding the clothes took a few hours and felt like the proverbial exercise in futility.

What would the children do next? I didn’t have long to wait, and I count it as my single most helpless day of being a mother. In fact, I have to stop now to gather my courage for the tale. Tomorrow is soon enough.

Our youngest daughter, Cate, called last night and we discussed why she had never gotten into so much trouble, except for the time she took my contact lenses and tore each one in half to try and understand what they were and why I would put them in my eyes. We decided she was such an ANGEL because the other children were much older than she, leaving her with no natural allies in crime.

One afternoon, shortly after Bear’s father returned to California, I put the children in the family room to watch Sesame Street while I baked cookies. I warned them sternly to behave. Our daughter was curled up in a big chair and the two boys were lounging on the new corduroy floor pillows we had recently purchased. You remember, the kind made for comfortable TV viewing with arms that sort of wrapped around the body.

I checked on the children from time to time and all seemed well. About an hour before Bear was due home from work I realized I was hearing suspicious giggling from downstairs. I had to take time to remove a pan of cookies from the oven and surely the kids were only laughing with Lady Elaine on Mr. Rogers weren’t they? Believe me when I tell you that even Mr. Rogers would have lost his cool.

I started down the upper stairs when I realized that some unknown STUFF was slowly drifting up from the lower regions. A noxious fog OVER THREE FEET DEEP had filled every room downstairs. The STUFF was a light yellow and seemed to be crawling higher. It was coming UPSTAIRS. I had no clue what it was or where it could have come from.

I called to.the kids and they came running up the stairs, still giggling, while the almost weightless STUFF swirled in eddies all around them. To their chagrin, I sent them outside to let the wind blow them clean and prevent them from inhaling anymore of whatever it was We certainly didn’t need early onset Black Lung Disease. Then my mind turned to clean-up and, again, I had no clue. Where does one start with such a huge mess?

I finally sat down on the stairs, leaned against the wall and stared into space totally devoid of thought except for listening to the kids. I must have sat there in a stupor for 20 or 30 minutes before Bear got home. He hugged the kids outside, came in, took one look at me and said, “What’s wrong?”

Staring straight ahead all I could say was, “I don’t know what to do.”

He finally looked at the stairs going down, seemed puzzled, and said, “What is that STUFF?

The tears started rolling down my face as I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to do.”

Taking a deep breath Bear went down the stairs, and shortly returned carefully carrying one torn open corduroy floor pillow. He pulled out a small amount of the stuffing, opened his hand and before our eyes the stuffing, now out from under pressure, grew at least 50 times greater. The fog had been so thick and encompassing that I wondered if it had come from a mattress, or maybe even two. But, no, it was simply a floor pillow.

We have never positively ID’d what the stuffing was made from, although Bear thinks it was some seed pod fiber from a rain forest tree called kapok. If so, the fiber from an entire 150 ft. tree was stuffed in a single pillow. Kapok is also highly flammable and its use has been replaced in the U.S. by synthetic fibers.

We sat for a few minutes, then Bear said, “This is a job for the shop vac,” and I watched as he filled vacuum bag after bag, scrunched them into heavy black plastic clean-up bags and stacked them in the bed of his truck. It seemed like hours before he could safely use the regular vacuum. Even months later we found pockets of the fibers in and under things.

I was no help at all. Bear even went out that night and got pizza so I wouldn’t have to cook. I was completely passive with PTSD for the next few days, I think it used to be called “shell shock.”

It takes a man and a woman, acting together, to civilize children. My hat goes off to single mothers who rear good children. I know I could not have done it alone. Bear was the one who solved the problems and made them go away. We can even laugh about them today.

If you’re lucky, the children do grow up to be responsible adults with some survival skills to pass on to their own little ones. Ours call their father often for advice about many things, including how to salvage their homes from some child-induced disaster.

I sometimes think marriage is like moving to a foreign country. You never know what wonderful surprises you’ll find in each other until you go there. Then each additional child brings a new foreign country into the mix, just to keep life interesting. • (795 views)

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10 Responses to Hatching Our Own Wrecking Crew

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    This very much reminds of the initial (and title) item in Jean Kerr’s Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. Her children were very imaginative in finding ways to do things that no one had ever thought to tell them not to do. I seem to recall that they later did a running skit on the subject on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. The military used to use kapok to stuff pillows, which was interesting when the Navy encountered a sailor who was allergic to it.

    • Anniel says:

      Timothy, We’re almost certain the fibers were Kapok. The stuff was also called Java Cotton and is still used in South America, India, China and Southeast Asia. It is so highly flammable I get scared that people still use it anywhere. Thank goodness when my story happened our furnace was in the garage behind a metal fire proof door. The early life preservers and life vests were stuffed with with Kapok, too.

      If I came upon an antique sofa or chair the first thing I’d do is reupholster it with new stuffing, just in case.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The military used to use kapok to stuff pillows, which was interesting when the Navy encountered a sailor who was allergic to it.

      It is one of the things I am most allergic to. Its use as pillow stuffing was quite common when I was a kid. I don’t run into it much today. Thank God.

  2. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    A “fun” story which goes to prove that it does take a man and a woman to properly raise children. And oh yes, about the flour: starch does not easily dissolve in water, especially cold water, so flour will indeed form a thick paste when you try to wash it off. I can’t think of any better way to get if off than vacuuming the kids.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Annie,

    The joys of parenthood. Makes one ponder whether or not there is reincarnation and if the children are one’s punishment for transgressions in a previous life.

    It takes a man and a woman, acting together, to civilize children.

    I have long maintained, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, that civilization must be beat into children. Perhaps that is the origin of “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

    Only their eyes showed in their totally white faces and bodies

    Besides the mess, it must have been hilarious to see a couple of little Caspers on the counters. I think the episode with the mud in the clothes must have been less humorous.

  4. Anniel says:

    All, It’s funny to remember things “after the fact.” Now, when I think of the stories, and say to Bear, “Remember the time. . .” As if we could ever forget. I do believe in an afterlife, and wonder if ages and ages from now we’ll still “Remember the time. . .” And laugh all over again. I hope so.

  5. Lucia says:

    I have long believed that mothers who survive raising children deserve a medal. That may be an old adage, but it rings true nonetheless.

    • Anniel says:

      Lucia, a medal would be nice, but the most lasting benefit is what you learn about yourself, who you REALLY are and how you need to change. Scary thought sometimes.

  6. Rosalys says:

    What wonderful, hilarious stories, Annie! Thank you for a good, New Years laugh!

    I’ve always found that some of the most miserable experiences (as long as nobody dies or gets seriously injured) are worth it in the long run (and long after the fact!) because they make such good stories.

    • Anniel says:

      Rosie, I sent a copy of this essay to my oldest daughter, who is the “star” of all the stories. She wrote back that she is “innocent of all charges since I remember nothing about the happenings.” HA! Likely story on her part.

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