It’s messy here. Marker marks on walls, little piles of folded laundry waiting expectantly but in vain for someone to pick them up, a single toddler shoe sitting on the bottom step of the stairs. When exactly did the kids take over the house?
The most obvious sign that the kids have taken over the house is of course the presence of the children themselves – that one is clear. And their stuff – they have a lot of stuff. From the tiny wellies lined up in the porch and the colourful jackets hanging on hooks inside the front door, the signs are there as soon as you walk into my house.
Beyond that though, there have been some changes in the last six years; my house has slowly evolved from a once orderly source of pride to a purely functional holder of stuff.
1. Every room is a laundry room
Six years ago, my husband and I ran one or two loads of washing through the machine each week – at least I think so. I can’t say for sure, as laundry wasn’t a huge feature of my life back then, and as such, laundry memories are hazy.
Now that there are five of us, there are three separate laundry baskets, and three more for clean clothes, all full, all the time. And, I’m ashamed(ish) to say, our radiators might also regularly be covered in clothes. I promise to take them off if you’re visiting.
2. The kids literally did take over one room
Six years ago, we had a dining room. I still refer to it as the dining room sometimes, and the kids look at me quizzically, then say “Oh do you mean the playroom mum?”
It’s full of toys, a toy box, a bookshelf, a train-set, and a frog-pocket thing that hangs on the wall and holds stuff that doesn’t go anywhere else. It still also has a dining room table and chairs – a not very practical glass topped table and six cream fabric covered chairs. Now cream with a liberal layer of crayon and more than a smudge of tomato soup.
3. Some toys did not fare so well
Instead of “Please put Fireman Sam in your room”, the toddler somehow heard “Please put Fireman Sam in the toilet”
4. There are packs of wipes all over the house
Until six years ago, I had never before bought a packet of wipes. Since then, I estimate we’ve gone through 1,200 packs, costing roughly €3,300. I really wish I hadn’t done that calculation.
5. The hall-way is an impromptu racetrack
A line drawn in marker across the hall carpet, because, as my four year old explained, how else would they know where to start the race?
6. The camera is full of unusual photos
Photos of feet. Small feet. And backs of heads. And the floor. Seventy-eight of them. It takes a long time to delete seventy-eight photos
7. Nature has come into the house
Every candle holder, every vase, every shelf is a “nature table”, filled or covered with leaves, twigs and daisies. I’m thinking of starting a pot pourri Etsy shop.
8. Baking is now an “activity” and by definition wrecks the kitchen
The product of any baking session is now secondary to the act of baking itself. Once upon a time, baking involved carefully measuring out ingredients with a weighing scales, following recipes to the letter and not wrecking the kitchen. Now, anything goes. Once we commit to baking, the baking must go ahead, regardless of belated discoveries that not all ingredients are in stock.
That’s why we’ve made chocolate cake without eggs (which actually tasted fine), chocolate biscuit cake without a weighing scales, and Rice Krispie buns with dark chocolate. The output is irrelevant – it’s all about the baking. And the kids will eat anything.
9. Hoovering is also an “activity”
My three kids love the hoover – it’s a favourite toy. What’s not to love – it makes a noise, it sucks things up, you can sit on it. So there are two options: hoover when they’re here, and let them do most of it, taking it in turn (this is quite handy from a housework perspective but does lead to squabbles) or don’t hoover at all (this second option is invoked all too regularly)
10. Painting doesn’t require paint
Sometimes yogurt is used as an alternative to paint. With a mallet for a paintbrush, and a toddler for a canvas.
Mysterious fun-size Twix wrappers appear in any vases not already in use for twigs and leaves and daisies. Nobody ate the Twix apparently and yes, yes, everyone knows the vase isn’t a bin. Must have been a burglar they say, with earnest faces. The same burglar who left chocolate handprints on the wall.
12. The car is destroyed
Right now my car is home to two packs of wipes (see point 4 above), three gloves, one hat, one buggy, one blanket, one booster seat, one spilled box of raisins, 4,000 crumbs and a headless doll. I don’t need to tell you that it didn’t look like this six years ago.
But it’s OK. In ten years my house will be tidy again (right?) and I’ll be worrying about teenage discos and Leaving Cert points. For now I’ll savour every minute, live with every mess and tolerate every scattered toy (except when stepping on Lego while barefoot – we all have our limits)