Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I’ve been going through the curriculum materials on routines and housekeeping in preparation for Thursday’s parenting class, and I’ve come upon the following words of advice:

  • Clean out your refrigerator each week, removing all items from their shelves. Be sure to wipe down the crispers, as well as the walls and shelves.
  • Set aside a time each day to take the children outdoors. Bundle them up in cold weather – the fresh air will help them sleep.

Does anyone actually do this? Refrigerator cleaning every week? Outdoor play every day?

Personally, I always feel like an exceptionally good mother when I get the children outside in the backyard. I do not allow this pleasant sensation to be disturbed by the fact that such outdoor play occurs only about once a month in winter (if they’re lucky). Nor do I allow my good-mother vibe to be compromised by any of the following circumstances:
  • Absence of hats, mittens, and snowpants.
  • Pushing and shoving over who gets to go down the slide.
  • Full-scale tantrum when it’s time to go back indoors.

Yesterday marked the first such backyard excursion since the arrival of snow. As I was pulling into the driveway after picking up the kids from daycare, the next-door neighbours came roaring out of their van, issuing invitations to come play. It was a beautiful crisp afternoon, still bright at five pm, so I agreed to meet our neighbours in the back yard in five minutes, thinking I’d snowsuit the kids up and then take them out through the back door.

I had reckoned without my children’s love of habit. They understood the plan to go play in the back yard, but did not see why that should interfere with their usual routine of removing all outerwear as soon as they come in the door. So off came the coats and boots, and we trooped solemnly through the house in our sock feet. When we got to the back door, coats and boots went back on, mittens were discovered to be still in the car, hats were rejected in favour of hoods, and at that point snowpants somehow seemed to be more effort than they were worth.

Decked thus in their bad-mother winter apparel (or lack thereof), brother and sister slipped and slid across the deck until they landed on the snowy path at the top of the yard, their faces aglow as they stood stock-still, clearly having no idea of what to do next. They love snow, but they’re not entirely comfortable with it. Bub, for instance, has shown a dogged determination to avoid getting snow on his boots ever since the first snowfall. Before getting into the car, he always carefully wipes his boots off on my pantleg, and if any residual flakes are still clinging to the soles he protests delicately, "Oh, it’s getting too wet all over the car!" (It’s nice that he’s so protective of the upholstery, though I wish he’d apply the same fastidiousness to my clothing!)

So it took a bit of persuasion for him to venture off the path. I got him warmed up with a few foot-stamping exercises, and then our yard was invaded by the 5- and 7-year-old neighbours who hooted and hollered and improvised games of soccer and tag. My children stumbled enthusiastically into the fray (with Bub even throwing out a few verbal greetings: "Where are you going?" "Ready, set, go!" "One-two-three-four – good job!"). It was nearly dark before I finally persuaded them to say goodbye and return to the house.

I thought I had actually done it – an outdoor play session without the ceremonial closing tantrum ritual – but as soon as we stepped through the door a comedy of errors ensued. With Bub’s first step onto the kitchen floor, his feet flew out from under him and he crashed to the floor. I tried to lift the Pie over his prone body so I could get inside to help him up, but misjudged the distance, placing her booted feet on his tummy (I figured out my error when his sobs of pain turned into howls of protest). When I finally got her over Bub’s still-howling self, it was her turn to go belly-up: her boots hit the floor and slid out from under her in one smooth motion, planting her squarely on her bum beside her brother. So I plucked the boots off of both howling children, fielded their horrified shrieks of, "Socks getting wet" as they tramped through the puddles into the living room; I grabbed some extra socks and pulled them over Bub’s toes (heeding his warning to "put socks on more carefully, Mama!"), then grabbed Pie’s reddened fingers and rubbed the warmth back into them. And then, at last, we were warm and cozy enough for me to say, "That was fun playing outside in the backyard, wasn’t it!"

It was. But I don’t plan on doing it every day.


Anonymous said...

We'll here in Colorado we go out nearly every day for my personal sanity. I do happen to have a son who loves to be outside and strangely enough even keeps his mittens on. Coming inside is sometimes fraught with the cries of distaste when the snow pants get the socks wet or you can't get undressed fast enough. I still find it all worth it in the end.

As for the fridge, you've got to be joking! If i'm lucky, the old food gets cleaned out once in a while, but cleaning the shelves and crisper is perhaps an annual event.

Becky said...

Cleaning the fridge out once a week? Playing outside everyday? Who wrote this curriculum and what were they smoking?

ROTFL!! I just moved out of my previous house December 1 and the last time I cleaned my old fridge from top to bottom with soapy water and disinfectant spray was when I moved into the house 10 years prior! Okay... I'm not a complete and total slob. I do manage to clean up spills and yucky stuff as they occur. But I'm not going to (NOR DO I HAVE TIME) take everything out of my refriderator EVERY week and wipe everything down from top to bottom!

As for playing outside... I rarely have time for that, either! And, while I loved to play in the mud and dirt as a kid and being dirty never bothered me then, I can't stand the thought of my kids rolling around in the muddy grass, getting all gooed up so that I will be forced to give them a bath whether it's bath night or not. Maybe I need to be a little more laid back on that front... but we do try to occasionally go for a walk or take a drive to the park and play on the playground/swings. I still cringe everytime my Princess comes down the slide and lands on her bum in the dirt, though.

I think cleaning the fridge every week and playing outside every day is the least of these girls' worries. I think it is more important to just spend quality time with your kids loving them and being with them.

MOM-NOS said...

Ah, yes, but if you did do it every day, just THINK of the blog posts we'd all be able to enjoy! Thanks for this one, which made me laugh out loud (with you, of course.)

My hunch is that the person who suggests taking the children out every day lives in a climate in which 40 degrees Farenheit is considered "cold".

And as for the refrigerator, that almost describes me. Just replace the work "week" with the word "year," and Bingo!

De Aufiero said...

Yes and almost yes. Fridge gets cleaned on the night before trash day. Kids go out everyday - goal is half an hour - because if they haven't been, it becomes obvious. Your account was hilarious and familiar. Going out in the winter is a great time-killer because it takes so long to get done and undone.

Mouse said...

I generally leave the outdoor play to Scooter's daycare. We like our walks a lot and used to go for a long one every evening, but it was warm and stayed light for longer. We also lack a good play area around us--no safe places to really just let him go.

And the refrigerator thing in the curriculum is why the women need someone like you to tell them what's realistic. Certainly makes me feel like a complete housekeeping moron.

Blair said...

Of course I do that everyday -
1) the fridge... I take something out of it everyday, at least part of it goes into the trash... the rest of that wiping the crispers and stuff.. uhm.. no
2) Of course I do, he is outside when I take him to and pick him up from day care as I put him in and take him out of my car...
Phew - I am an almost awesome parent!

julia said...

I thought I was one of the few mothers who didn't take her kids outside to play every day. I really don't like the outdoors much. At all.

And hell no, I don't clean out my fridge every week. I clean it when I open it and thing "Yuck, this is nasty," and actually remember to pull the spray bottle out from under the sink.

metro mama said...

We do get outside almost every day. We both get a little wiggy if we don't.

As for the fridge, it's been really cleaned maybe once this year (not by me either) and I took a picture of it for my blog.

Jenifer G. said...

I would have to agree with the Annual Fridge Cleaning event and wiping up the obvious spills as they happen. I actually have this on my mental list to do monthly, it just never seems to happen.

For outside play in winter I am either hit or miss. Lots of outside play one week and none the next. Papoosie Girl is outside 3 times a day at school, it is Rosebud who gets short-changed hanging out with me all day.

In general the more outside play the less insane inside though.

Sometimes I just take Rosebud to our local mall early before it opens (we drop PG at 8:30am for school so we are packed up and ready to go quite early) and we walk and wander, and just poke along looking in windows for a few hours. With all the skylights
it is kind of like outside, right?!

Please tell me you are updating your curriculum with such sage nuggets as:

*If you still have clean shirts for you and/or the baby by the end of the day in the drawers you are a star.

*If you can remember at any point in the day if this is same feeding or the next one you are a good Mom.

*If you manage to bite-your-tongue just once when someone well-meaning gives you advice you deserve a pat on the back.

It is so funny what some people decide is the "pertinent" information, fridges and outside play? Perhaps, they meant have other people fill your fridge with food and if you are going completely insane take the baby outside for a walk.

See that works much better.

Mom101 said...

No one would blame you for not doing it every day. Meanwhile, try living in NYC where you don't exactly "let the kids out into the backyard." Going out is a production of the highest order, to say nothing of the tongues that will wag if their socks don't match.

crazymumma said...

Our children look like they have been living below ground since November....
It sounds like it was a ton of fun, but I wish it was not so much work.

crazymumma said...

Oh....and what the...about cleaning the fridge. I do not even know the last time I mopped the floor....
Life is short ya know?

owlhaven said...

Well, forget the fridge thing-- that gets done much less often even than I care to admit. But my kids do go out most days. Otherwise I would gpo nutty. However after reading your experience I understand why you would not want to do that every day!


Beck said...

My fridge gets cleaned out semi-regularily by my grossed-out husband. The poor man apparently doesn't want new lifeforms to be coming to full green fuzzy fruition in his fridge.
I'm so glad to hear that your children don't get to go outside often, either. I feel like awarding myself some sort of big shiny medal for pulling the kids around on the sled for like, an hour, today.

Karen said...

Whenever I take my children out in the cold, I feel that I deserve to rest on my laurels for the remainder of the day...but it turns out I still have to feed them dinner, bath them, read them stories - everything I usually do, plus being out in the cold? Really?
Two sad personal truths about me: I am wimp about the cold. I covet my friends remote car starter painfully.
Also, I don't know if I'm ADD or what, but I also tend to be bored when we are outside. If my two yr old were older I'd be reading a novel, but I'm afraid he'll run into the street. The whole time I'm out there, I think , "if we were inside he could be playing with the refrigerate magnets and stacking applesauce cups while I start on dinner!" He's so little, he likes to play near but not with, so I tend to not know what to do with myself when it's not nice enough to garden.

As for the frig, it's funny timing, I just lost it over the guck inside today, so I pulled the produce drawers out and threw them under the shower...is that any good?

NotSoSage said...

The fridge. Hah! If I can clean out the cat litter once a week, I'm doing well.

I come from a long line of women who believe that children should actually *sleep* outside, even in winter. Not for the night, of course (that would be ridiculous), just for a nap.

Now, my grandmother was born and raised in Manitoba, my mother in northern BC and I in Ottawa...how's that for cold?[...and intergenerational migration?...hmm, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. Could it be mother-avoidance? But, I digress.]

Denguy said...

Funny stuff.
Oh, and I've cleaned my fridge twice in three years--and my mother has done it twice, too.

Jenifer G. said...

Help I lost my commas...

*If you manage to bite-your-tongue just once, when someone well-meaning gives you advice, you deserve a pat on the back.

See above.

Mayberry said...

Cleaning the refrigerator: MAYBE three times a year if we are lucky (and if a big spill makes it urgent).

Outside every day: In the winter? Nah. Maybe on the way to some INDOOR venue. Another reason why day care rules. They deal with the boots, snowpants, etc. etc. etc. twice a day. In fact, all outerwear except coats resides at day care from Monday through Thursday.

nomotherearth said...

You're supposed to clean out the fridge? Really?? Shoot.

As for getting outside, it is just not happening lately. I'm a star in the summer - we spend a minimum of 2 hours a day outside. These days, it's the long walk to and from daycare. That's at least 40 minutes there...he's in a stroller, but hey, it's something! I'm basically hoping he gets enough outside play at daycare. It's something I have to try to fit into the schedule more, for sure. That, and getting him to wear mittens at all.

Jennifer said...

I'm afraid to even type the words "clean out the fridge" for fear something in the near vicinity will explode. We don't see, hear or use those words much around here.

Aliki2006 said...

I've often wondered about the refrigerator thing. It makes sense to clean it out once a week, but I just don't see how that could ever really happen. One thing I like about moving is that you really get to clean your fridge out.

ewe are here said...

Luckily or unluckily, depending on whether I have to go too, my husband grew up in a colder climate - Scotland - with a mother from Norway. So playing outdoors no matter the temperature is rather normal to him. He just bundles MF up and takes him out. I'm not quite as good about it if it's wet and cold. Cold, ok, if I must. But wet and cold? Please don't make me do it!

And I'm still laughing about the weekly-cleaning-of-the-fridge suggestion. Throw stuff out weekly, yes; wipe it all down weekly, hahhahahaha!

Oh, The Joys said...

Re: the fridge - I read (I think on Miller Mayhem) the use of the term "The Rotter" as a replacement for "The Crisper". Sorta summed it up for me.

Mad Hatter said...

What? Huh? The fridge is supposed to get cleaned out every now and then? I'm lucky if I get my hair combed twice a week.

As for the outdoor play, I try to get our daughter out every day but it has been all but impossible since the first freeze/thaw we had in late December. She is soooo afraid of falling on the ice that she just freezes up. Really, she gets more exercise jumping on my bed these days.

Last week she fell in a snow bank (soft snow while being snow-pant bundled to the hilt) when the sitter tried to coax her outside for some winter fun. A week later and Miss M still laments to me several times a day: "Meee-elll fell dowwwn in the snow. With Brianne." It's as if it's the only memory she can possibly retain. Forget the bithday party we had for her on Sunday with pink cake and presents. Nope, her whole life is about trying to come to terms with the trauma of falling in the snow.

When Brianne takes her out to build a snowman, Miss M just stands stock-still and watches Brianne do all the work.

She does like to see the moon and the "wait-das" every day, though. I can usually coax her into breathing 5 breaths of fresh air for that. Spring will be a good time.

Christina said...

Clean out and wipe down the fridge weekly? No way. We toss out expired food once a month or so, and it doesn't receive a full scrub down any more than twice a year.

We also don't go outside everyday. Now that it's winter, it's more like once every week or two. If there's snow, I like taking her out to play, but if there is no snow, and it is above freezing, then the backyard is likely a muddy, swampy mess.

Her Bad Mother said...

Oh, hell. NEVER look in my refrigerator.

jen said...

I always struggle with how to offer "advice" to people who are already struggling. a) it can be seen as a useful tool to incorporate, or b) it can be seen as yet one more way they are not able to keep it together and do what is expected.

and i love how you pointed out that for you (and all of us) it's impossible to keep up w/ the suggested shoulds.

Julie Pippert said...

Whatever will you think of me when I confess that:

(a) yes, I do clean out the fridge regularly


(b) no, we don't get outside every day

Of course, we have the opposite weather problem, which is a huge factor.

LOL about the snow outfits and getting in and out. I admit, I don't miss *that!*

Mimi said...

Thanks for my daily giggle. I feel like I was there. I must admit to a real weakness for stories in which people fall down. Falling down is *funny*.

And I like the idea of rewriting these kinds of 'advice' to be more beleaguered-mommy centred. Not 'kids must get fresh air', but 'the whole process will kill a lot of time and make theday ultimately seem shorter, maybe'. Not 'clean the fridge weekly,' but 'do what you need to to not poison yourself, but hell, life is short.'

Good luck with the course!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

For awhile I'd read your blog and think, your kids are like mine in so many ways! At least our sons are. But not now... because yesterday my daughter ATE the snow off her shoes.

That's funny, about the refrigerator. When is a new mom supposed to do that? In between laundry/nursing/playing/cooking/sleeping/wishing she was sleeping/falling over from exhaustion? Ha!

PeanutButtersMum said...

"Personally, I always feel like an exceptionally good mother when I get the children outside in the backyard..."

Me too! Me too! I even feel good if I'm not the one taking PB outside! As long as he GETS outside, I don't care who does the work to get him there, I'm giving myself the pat on the back for even encouraging someone ELSE to take him out!

It's a shame that I, personally, am so lazy about getting PB outside, because he really does seem to feel better and behave better when he's had that 'fresh air' experience.

Oh, and the refrigerator cleaning? Egads! Once a YEAR, if it's been on its best behaviour.

nonlineargirl said...

Wait, can we go back to the fridge thing? Once a week? I'm feeling good if once a week or so I notice at least one left-overs container that is so far gone that I can't ignore it any more.

Jess Riley said...

Man, if I take my future kids out as much as I do the dog, they'll be pale and flaccid indeed.

(I'm only joking; she gets out twice a day. But then, she does her business outdoors, so it's kind of mandatory. :-)

kittenpie said...

When I was home for the year with Pumpkinpie we went out every day, no matter how howling the blizzard - I'd walk her until she fell asleep and I could scuttle into the coffee shop for half an hour of blissful coffee and reading. Sigh... even the first several months back to work, I'd take her to the park every weekend day - until the weather turned. And now, when it's cold or drizzly or just not that appealing? I've gotten soft and lazy. She goes out in the nice weather, but now we are about one outing per weekend, and not necessarily to the park. Last weekend it was, the weekend before, we walked down to Swiss Chalet, warmed up with soup, then walked back for hot chocolate and a nap. Still a nice outing.

(and btw - I haven't been commenting as much lately because I've been mostly at work, but have been visiting!)

edj said...

I loved this story!

Anonymous said...

Well.. uh... um... I admit I clean out the fridge every week. There I said it. Thing is, I've got an ultra-sensitve sense of smell and if I catch the faintest whiff of something "off" I can't bear it. Plus, if I don't clean the fridge out I can't get this week's groceries to fit in right. I usually put a double layer of paper towel in the crispers to keep the clean up pretty simple.

Outdoor play.. sigh... we live in Ottawa -- a.k.a. the FREEZER. And yes, getting outside usually results in a full-body sweat for me, which leads to the chills. But I gotta say, once the kids mastered getting themselves dressed (mine are 3 and 5) it became alot easier. And though there are many days we don't manage to get out, those are the days when we all FEEL it the most... can you say "SHACK HAPPY"? ;-)

Keep up the great work here and there and everywhere.. love the Blog.

Jaelithe said...

Um, I think this curriculum needs to be entirely rewritten by a mother who is not secretly taking meth to keep up with her own crazy housekeeping mythology.

Seriously-- these young women are most likely going to be trying to go to school, go to work, AND raise a baby, possibly without the help of the baby's father, and people want to tell them it's highly important to clean out their refrigerators every week? WTF?

How's this for advice: Put covers on your electrical outlets. Pick up objects from the floor that the baby could choke on. Wipe your kitchen counters and your table regularly, and sweep or vacuum when you get the chance. But otherwise, don't worry about the housework-- worry about taking care of yourself and the baby. Always keep more diapers and more changes of clothes on hand than you think you'll need. Find friends and family who can help you out, if you can. Try to get some sleep wherever you can find it.

And don't listen to idiots who try to make you feel guilty for not being perfect.

This advice dispensed by a woman who scrubbed her bathroom floors with disinfectant by hand today. I don't do it every day. Heavens. I did it today because my kid's been throwing up on the floor.

Lawyer Mama said...

The outside part I'm generally up for. The fridge cleaning? Baaaa haaaaaaa! (Wait, let me catch my breath.) Who on earth wrote that curriculum?

Nancy said...

I did used to play outside as a kid every day in New York State -- but we lived in the country and had a big backyard. With my girls (and no yard, just a community playground) I'm much lazier about getting them bundled up and/or lathering them with sunscreen.

And the fridge? Forget about it. It's not a disaster, but it's certainly not immaculate either.

Rock the Cradle said...

Cleaning the fridge weekly?!

yeah. right.

But I DO have to get the Impling outside everyday. Otherwise, no nap, and hours of chatting and singing in the dark before she finally falls asleep at night. Which is cute and all, until the next day, when I have a raging, tired Impling on my hands. NOT fun.

And if I don't get out of this apartment, I will go insane.