See this photo? If you remove the pregnant blonde and the dog, and replace them with an equally wild-haired but non-pregnant brunette and a cat, you will have a pretty good idea of what Chez Merrick looks like today. I don't have five kids, by the way. It just feels as if I do.
In entirely unrelated news, a couple of Ben's university friends have just spent the bank holiday weekend with us. I emphasise the word "entirely" for a very good reason, which is thus: you could be forgiven for thinking that the carnage depicted so accurately in the above photograph is linked to the fact that we have had an extra two people on the premises for the past three days, in a post hoc ergo propter hoc sort of way. This catchy Latin phrase was used by the fictional President Bartlett on an episode of the utterly brilliant US drama The West Wing several years ago, and means after, therefore because of. In this case, the saying is most definitely the opposite of applicable, because our houseguests could not have conducted themselves in a more delightful or helpful manner during their stay. Neither have children, yet they displayed enormous amounts of patience and kindness towards both wee boys and Joshua in particular (who requested games of frisbee, assistance with the construction of Duplo towers and energetic participation in several other activities throughout their stay). Alex cooked every main meal of the weekend, Jim made cups of tea and cleared the table after dinner, and as if all that wasn't enough, the two of them plus Ben constitute the most hilarious comedy triple act; just sitting at the dinner table and listening to these three old friends bantering together was a tonic to my weary soul. By the time they departed, the house was somewhere approaching tidy and the dishwasher was on. Yet, as I sit down to write this post a mere twenty-four hours later, I am once again surrounded by mess and squalor. If you've read any of my previous posts on the subject of tidiness or the lack therof, you'll know that this is unfortunately not unusual, but I've given the topic some thought today and I believe I've come up with a solution to my domestic disorder: Communal Living!
It struck me at various points during the weekend that a ratio of four adults to two extremely lively children was very conducive to the retention of one's sanity and the ability to complete both essential and desirable tasks as one progressed through each day. Whilst Alex and Jim were staying with us I was able to dry my hair, deal with potties full of wee and visit the bathroom without first having to tuck a baby under my arm, since there was always someone close at hand to prevent Daniel from tumbling down the staircase to which he is constantly committed to climbing. If someone needed a nap, they could take one with the greatest of ease, whilst plenty of adults remained available to supervise the children and prepare restorative cups of tea. Ben had someone with whom he could visit the cinema, drink beer and play computer games, none of which are activities in which his wife can realistically participate at present, but all of which are pastimes he deserves to enjoy every so often. Whilst the bedtime routine was occurring, someone was putting the Duplo back into the storage tub whilst someone else was setting the table ready for dinner, thus freeing up valuable time in the evening which would usually have been spent clearing up and preparing for the next day, but was instead devoted to relaxation and jollity. And when my mother phoned during a morning viewing of 102 Dalmations and I sung the praises of our excellent houseguests, she suggested that I employ them both as au pairs. Regrettably, they already have full-time jobs from which they cannot be extracted, but a seed was planted in my mind this weekend, and I have devised the following plan, post hoc ergo propter hoc.
We shall all club together and purchase a gigantic premises, equidistant from all who wish to participate, and it shall be named The Sanctuary. It will be a place where all are welcomed warmly at any time of the day, and there will exist only two rules: 1) Everyone brings a sense of humour and a willingness to use their greatest talent, whether that's making people laugh or washing up, and 2) Everyone leaves behind them any tendency they might have to judge or compete with others. I shall invite the author of this article to come and join us, as long as she brings a caddy of cleaning products and a humble spirit along with her. There will be one enormous Recreation Room where play and merriment and activity will take place, and there will be several Peace Pods where the exhausted and the introspective will be allowed to seek rest and solitude. Everyone will pitch in when they can, everyone can sleep when they need to, and meals will get made and laundry will get done and Downton Abbey will get watched and computer games will get played and everyone will have a lovely time.
Who's with me?
(And, if this idea doesn't come to fruition, I have a Plan B up my sleeve: I'd like one of you scientific types to invent an affordable yet highly sophisticated version of the iRobot which cooks, puts the kettle on, puts Duplo away and holds babies whilst their parents use the toilet. I've caught a fleeting glimpse of what my life could be like this past weekend, and I'm not ready to relinquish it.)
This post is for Beth, who's at home with four sick children and has many, many Things to Do. You're Not Alone, my friend.