Sunday, July 23, 2006

APB: Dobby the House Elf

Last night, I went over to our friend's house to baby sit their 4-year old son and 16-month old daughter, while my girlfriend picked up her husband up at the airport. His flight arrived at 10:00 PM, so I showed up at 9:30, after the kids had already been put to bed.

As soon as I stepped foot in the house, I noticed something.

I noticed that their house was immaculate.

Everything was perfect.

Not a single item was out of place.

All of the kid's toys were neatly organized away - there was no clutter on the counters - no baskets of laundry yet to be folded or washed - and I heard the gentle hum of the dishwasher in the background. Just as my girlfriend was about to leave, she started up her little "Rosie Roomba" robotic vacuum cleaner ... which she informed me, would 'superficially' clean all of the floors ... all by itself, while she was gone.

How 'bout that?

She left, and I made myself comfortable on their couch while my eyes were scanning the family room.

I noticed that they had several floor lamps - not surrounded by immovable objects (mandatory at our house, unless we want the lamps to be pulled over on to wee bitty little heads), a few plants at ground level, and a coffee table. Had it not been for the Leap Frog Learning Table nestled in the corner (with an INTACT purple flip door ... our purple flip door lasted all of about 3 minutes once it was removed from the box before it snapped off), a stranger might not know that children live in this house.

Two and half hours later, my girlfriend and her husband returned from the airport.

My mind was aflutter with questions. The first being - "How in the WORLD do you keep your house so neat?!" She gazed around the room and replied "Oh, heavens. I actually need to clean this place. It's a mess!"

What th...?

She continued.

"Our daughter is such a messy eater. She throws food all over the place. Our son never did that. I've actually seen her pick food up and eat it OFF the floor. It's disgusting!"

I kept my mouth closed that I had seriously considered serving our children's food ON the floor, and saving myself a step during the nightly cleanup.

The rest of my questions seemed redundant (How do you keep your walls so clean?! How do you keep your floor so clean?!), suspecting that I already knew the answers, I said goodbye, and made my way home.

As soon as I stepped foot in the house, I noticed something.

I noticed that our house was a disaster.

Everything was scattered.

Not a single item was in place.

I walked in to the kitchen, looked around and realizing that I was too tired to do anything, went straight to bed. In the four seconds it took me to fall asleep, I was thinking that the state of our house is a really sad situation. Especially since we had two women at our house on Friday, that spent four hours cleaning.

That's right.

Four hours. Cleaning. Our house.

Two women.

Just the day before.

When I woke up this morning, I thought back to my girlfriend's tidy bungaloo and I was motivated to get our house super-clean, too. I was even more motivated to get my cleaning self in gear once I realized that we if by "we" I mean Charlie had forgotten to run the dishwasher the night before. I scrubbed the kitchen, organized the playroom, pulled down all of the items above our cupboards and dusted. When the kids went down for their nap, I moved the refrigerator out and cleaned behind it, too.

I was a super freak cleaning machine. It was almost as if I was hosting a triplet play date ... or something.

Then the kids woke up from their nap and I fed them lunch.

The next thing I know, there is apple sauce on the walls, macaroni and cheese stuck to the chairs, and random fruit being thrown about the kitchen.

From the depths of my mind ... I remembered a phrase I'd once heard. "Trying to clean the house while your children are growing ... is like trying to shovel the sidewalk, while it's still snowing." Even though I live in Southern California - where it never snows - I can appreciate that statement.

It's like a blizzard here. All day. Every day. White out conditions.

If you've ever ready Harry Potter, you are familiar with Dobby the house elf. He is a pint-sized little fellow that cooks and cleans and does everything that you don't want to do. He doesn't take up much space ... and right about now ... I'd give my Animal for him.

We don't need a nanny. We don't need a maid. We don't need a Roomba.

We need a house elf. If nothing else, I suspect he would have reminded me to turn on our dishwasher last night.

(edited to read: there are few things in our world more horrifying, than realizing first thing in the morning that we forgot to run the dishwasher the night before. There are no clean sippy cups. No clean bowls or spoons for the kids breakfast. All of these items have to be washed by hand, usually while the kids run around and chew on their arms.)


  1. Kudos to you. You have three healty, happy, vibrant children.

    I heard a saying once that a clean house is a sign of a wasted life. I really do think it is. I think I might blog about that tomorrow...if you don't mind.

  2. I have to agree with Stephanie. Your kids are happy and healthy, so what if your house is a bit messy. I just stopped wasting my money on a cleaning lady b/c by the end of the same day they cleaned, it was already messy!!!

    One day you'll be like your friend...just enjoy the ride until then!

  3. I have a great poem about messy houses and happy children. It's great! Much better than the other way around.

  4. Jen- I had several couples over a few months ago and had cleaned like a banshee getting ready. The house really looked great. No stains, no toys, etc...Then one of the firsts guests arrived and said, "this is the most babyproofed house I have ever seen in my life." I am not sure if he was referring to the 5 baby gates, the fact that there was a soft ottoman in place of the coffee table, all my oriental rugs had been removed to expose bare hardwood floors in the hallways, no floor lamps, latched cabinets, babyproofed front door knob or what?
    And I DID feed mine on the floor for about 5 months. I used these clever little feeding chairs from Target with "mess maps" i.e. TARPS on the floor under them. I could pick up the tarps , shake them off outside the door and wipe them down (or better yet) machine wash them.