Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Clean Freak

Spring cleaning today. Historically, I haven’t done Spring cleaning. I don’t buy into the whole “all-at-one-time, get-it-finished-today” cleaning philosophy. I also wipe out the cupboards when I see that they’re dirty (it helps to close your eyes every time you open a door) and I do the same with the baseboards. This method of cleaning worked better before I had my eyes fried with a laser. When I wore glasses, I’d see a smudge on the wall, say to myself, “Gee, better go clean my glasses,” and walk away from it all. But now, I have a 10 year old daughter who needs to learn that cleaning means more than shoving the stuffed animals into the closet.
I didn’t expect the house to be “clean” by the end of the day. In fact, I’d warned my children that the work we’d be doing would probably not make the house look any better. I made an age-appropriate list, organized it by child, put the cleaning supplies conveniently on the kitchen counter and made a plan. Wanna hear my plan? It’s so MacGyver. It involves princesses, candy and a ball.
First, I bought a package of Reese’s Pieces. You remember those, right? They came out in the ‘80’s and are just like M&Ms, only peanutty, not chocolaty.
After breakfast, as I gathered by not-too-anxious-to-work slaves around me, I said, Reese’s Pieces in hand, “I have here a magic pill. This magic pill will turn you into whatever princess you want to be. Every time you finish a chore, I’ll give you another magic pill. You can still be the same princess, or you can become someone new. And, every time you finish a chore, you get to put a sticker next to it on your paper. But watch out! If you whine, fuss, argue or complain, you get a strike. If you get 3 strikes, you still have to finish your work, but you don’t get to go to the ball at the end of the day.”
What’s that? A ball? Oh, yes, we had a ball scheduled for the end of the day.
The baby immediately changed into her Belle ball gown and proceeded to wash walls and baseboards dressed as though Prince Charming would show up any minute. Combine the dress with the 23 hair clips she had in her hair, and you’ve never seen a more decked-out maid.
I was amazed. My normally vociferously anti-cleaning children only got 2 strikes between the 3 of them. They sang, they waltzed, they asked which tools they got to use for the next chore, and we were done by noon. And boy did we have a household of preening Princesses! The oldest chose to be Briar Rose, also known as Aurora and Sleeping Beauty, because when she was in the cottage, she had to work. Besides, who wouldn’t like to have 3 names to choose from? (Oh, wait, most of my family has chosen alternate names to go by, much to my husband’s confusion.) The youngest wanted to be Belle all day. In fact, I still have to call her Belle. This is how monsters are created. The middle child bounced from one princess to the next, being alternately Jasmine, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. She does not make me call her any of those names, now, although she does have an “I’m the Queen, I’ll do what I want” sort of personality.
And how did the ball go? I gave them options. They chose to play a couple of games of Uno and then watch a movie with popcorn. A kid movie, which I had ordered from Netflix in anticipation of the occasion. I tried to watch it, but combining crippled leading characters with untamed horses makes me want to poke my eyeballs out or, at least, to eat a lot of chocolate.
We also danced, because the baby was not satisfied with our interpretation of the word “ball.” Even after we danced, she was still mad that we didn’t go to an actual ball, “for true life” as she says, where her Prince would bedeck her in jewels and take her away from the Evil Witch, but I gave her 5 extra Reese’s Pieces and she settled down to a low growl.