The twin follies of clutter and untidiness

I am not a tidy person by nature.  I try to keep the house tidy but fail dismally.  I hound the children and keep on at them to keep their stuff tidy, but my stuff … it’s everywhere.  As the co-leader of two Girl Scout troops I have made an extra special effort to keep the troop materials neat, tidy and in a known place.

I have a big closet I use for art and craft projects and materials.  I keep my Girl Scout materials here too.  My husband recently painted it for me and added decent shelving, so it can hold a vast amount.  As we approached the Court of Awards evening (the annual ceremony for Scouts, where we hand out various earned patches) I had custody of the troops’ patches among other responsibilities.

The week before the ceremony my days went something like this:

I know where the patches are today, I saw them.
I know where the patches are today, I saw them.
I know where the patches are today, I saw them.
I know where the patches are today, I saw them.
I know where the patches are today, I saw them.
I need to double check the patches as I will need them tomorrow.

I was actually being very good and getting all my bits together EARLY in the day so I didn’t have any last minute panics  (I am as punctual as I am tidy), when I realized I couldn’t find the patches.  For the life of me I couldn’t remember where I had put them.  I went through all the closet shelves – no sign of the patches.  I searched another closet (it was logical, as it used to contain the troop boxes and now held the overflow of craft materials) and tidied it as I searched.  I searched every worktop, table and piece of furniture that contains clutter … tidying as I went.  The cats followed me, fascinated with my activities and monosyllabic mutterings.

About an hour into my search and rescue mission the phone rang.  It was my husband.  I wailed down the phone about my calamity.  “Oh” he said, “The patches are on my desk, I saw them.”  And they were.  Admittedly he had placed some of his clutter on them, but they were on his desk.  I guess my short attention span meant I didn’t put them back after checking them.  I was weak-kneed with relief and swore I would never be so careless again.

Fast forward a few weeks to my preparations for Camporee … I have custody of the SWAPS for one troop (SWAPS are little crafts on pins that the girls make to swap with other troops – each girl makes 11).

My week goes like this:

I know where the SWAPS are – I saw them today – I will not lose them.
I know where the SWAPS are – I saw them today – I will not lose them.
I am paranoid I will lose the SWAPS so I will move them to a safe place.
I know where the SWAPS are – I will not lose them … but I can’t see them …
I know where the SWAPS are … but I can’t see them … they must be there!
OMG – the SWAPS have gone!  PANIC!!  PANIC!!

At least I am sensible enough to start my cursed ritual a day earlier this time.  The same closets are searched – a little easier this time as they are still tidy from the last search.  The cats are delighted to help me and play the anticipation game – each cat lies on a pile of clutter; the winner is the cat to be booted off first.  Beastly felines!  My husband returns from work while I am mid-search.  “What have you lost?” he asks as he closes the door.  “The SWAPS” I mutter through gritted teeth.  Bless him; he goes straight into search mode with no words of reproach about my slovenly tidying skills, just compassion for his pitiful wife.

Why am I writing about this?  I’m taking a break from another search for something I put in a safe place.  I really shouldn’t stress myself about this habit as it probably won’t change.  I still remember the time, about 25 years ago, I put my make-up box in the freezer.  What worries me is not the fact that I put it there, but that I LOOKED for it there and FOUND IT!!

The SWAPS?  Oh, they were in an old cigar box on top of the printer, of course!

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Uh oh – ticks!!

I was awoken this morning by my younger daughter “Mummy, there’s something nasty here and it really HURTS”.  I open one eye to see a hand being waggled at me.  Between two of her fingers was a tick.  I try moving to find I am pinned to the bed by sleeping cats.  I reach over and expertly pluck the tick out.  “Can I watch TV please?” is my daughter’s grateful response.  Crisis over then.  I wake up about an hour later, still pinned in the same position by the cats, firmly holding the tick between my fingers.  Phew.

I can’t help but wonder why we pay to have to the yard sprayed when my daughter wakes up with ticks.  Has she had deer in her room for a sleep over?  Could my indoor cats get Lyme through my daughter’s discarded ticks?  I decide not to pursue this line of thought but might get the bug spray out and give the girls’ room a good spray …

When my children go to play in the garden, I have to spray them with the deep woods version of bug spray as our house is on the edge of the woods.  I am endlessly fascinated with the list of ‘nasties’ that the spray works on, chiggers and no-see-ums are my favorites (although their bites are not).  Anyway, the girls are meant to do the tick dance before coming back into the house and I am meant to check them every night.  Obviously we are not doing it properly.

My younger daughter is much tastier than my older daughter judging by the amount of ticks I’ve pulled off her, not that this consoles her.  Last year she got a tick in early March that was so firmly embedded that not even the doctor could get it out without breaking it.  It took about two months to get rid of all the tick bits and she still has a scar.

Her reaction to ticks has improved over the years, and the screaming hysteria has subsided.  For a couple of summers the following scenario would frequently take place …

The girls will be about to get into their pyjamas or into the bath and I will catch them, naked, for a quick tick check.  Oh how they hated this and trembled in fear of me finding one.  As my scanning slows over any marks they squeal in horror “Mummy, it’s a mole!” or “It’s just dirt Mummy, it’ll wash off I promise”.  They cringe as they wait for the dreaded words “Hold still” as this means I’ve found something interesting.  If this is followed up by “Aha!” they start to wriggle out of my grasp screaming “GET IT OFF ME!” and run around the house, naked, paranoid and screaming.  If I am patient they will eventually run past me in their terror and I can catch them, otherwise I just chase them.

“GET OFF ME, LET ME GOOOOOO!” yells the pitiful, captured child as I pin her to the floor/sofa/bed – depending where I corner her.  Of course I don’t let go, I have a tick to extract while the other child watches in fascinated horror, still naked.

This year we have been promised a bumper crop of ticks, bugs and other nasties due to a huge decline in the bat population and a mild winter. Oh joy!

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