Why I Quit Bathing My Kids.

My friends of the Daily Child Bather Variety (which thankfully are rare) cannot understand people like me.

They’re still in denial that the facts prove that most people are indeed like me but since I’m open and vocal about my anti-bathing stance, I must take the brunt of their shock.

But here’s a little story to illustrate why, exactly, I only bathe my children twice a week.

Maybe this kind of thing doesn’t happen to the daily bathers. And if so, they should count their blessings and shut up.

But they do happen to me.

It was a Thursday afternoon, perhaps yesterday, directly before naptime.

The timing is important, because all mothers know that “directly before naptime” means “I seriously cannot wait to have you in bed so that I can have a moment to reclaim my thoughts without anyone saying ‘heymommyheymommyheymommyheymommy’ while I’m simply trying to think one tiny sentence fragment of my own.”

(Cherish every moment, sweetheart. They go by so fast.)

But thanks to a frantic week, we were off schedule, and I was aware that my children stanketh more than usual.

(“Bath Nights” are Saturday nights and Tuesday nights. You do the math.)

So I had no choice. Pre-naptime baths absolutely had to happen.

I began running the bath and called the children from their blissful play.

“Everybody get naked and go tee-tee!”

Noah was first to whiningly reach me. As he was hopping off the toilet, he was still saying “I gotta go potty!”

“Do you need to poop?”

“No, silly! I just tee teed!”

“Then get in the tub.”

The washing began – along with the shock and awe over the fact that this bath, like all baths, requires me to spray your head, scrub your head, and rinse your head.

(WHY is that always such a surprise?? I will never understand.)

I finished Noah’s head and relegated him to the back of the tub. Then I began detangling Ali’s hair.

It’s unreal, her hair. At least ten feet long, thick, fine, and prone to extreme knots worthy of their own TLC freak show.

(I took her to a random salon at her birthday and requested that they put a deep conditioning detangling treatment on it. The salon manager didn’t believe me that she needed it, but agreed to it anyway. The treatment itself created a matted knot so big that it took her and another stylist over thirty minutes to get it out, all while the she shot me dirty, accusing looks while repeating that she’d never seen anything like it, clearly implicating me in a conspiracy to torture her.)

(Needless to say the treatment has not been any sort of long-term help.)

Back to the bath.

I was two and a half days into removing her tangles when Noah screamed, “I neeeeed to poooooop!”

Of course you do. Because you only poop once a week and of course it would be during this small window of rare bathing that your urges urgently interrupt.

But hey – it’s better than the alternative.

“Get out of the tub and poop, then.”

<Splash> <Splosh> <SHplop> <SHplop>

He tracked his giant pond-sized footprints across the bathroom floor.

He sat behind us, straining and turning purple, filling the room with the most unclean sound effects and aromas.

I considered the air particles for a second – should I just give up this bathing process all together?

“I’m doooone!!! I NEEEED YOU TO WIIIIIIPE MEEEE!”

I’m right here dude. No need to broadcast.

So I rinsed the masses of conditioner off my hands and headed over to wipe a butt.

Mommy's Hands

He leaned over, holding my legs as I sent a piece of unlucky toilet paper journeying through his buttcheeks.

“My hands are all wet from my bath – not from the potty.”, he told me.

“I’m aware of that fact. But thanks for the reassurances.”

I wiped him extra thoroughly since he was headed back into a liquid germ-sharing situation with his sister, then flushed and returned to my detangling of the lion’s mane.

I didn’t notice the fact that his once-a-week poo was so massive that it had clogged the toilet. Or that the commode innards had also gotten stuck in the air and the water was continuing the run.

(One would assume such fortune could only happen once in a lifetime. But here it was, happening again, in the very same bathroom that was now brand new because of the last time it happened.)

I was unaware. Until I heard the sound of Victoria Falls rushing from the toilet.

I jumped up, splattering conditioner onto every surface, all while screaming “NONONONONO STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP!!!!”, sloshed through the quickly forming lake, and began frantically turning the knob on the back of the toilet.

The falls kept falling until the very last quarter turn. By then, the River of PooWater was nearing Ali’s bedroom.

I snatched up their towels and started mopping, while children, who are the ultimate Captain Obviouses, began saying things like,

“There’s water in the floor, Mommy!”

and,

“The toilet is overflowing!”

and,

“It’s comin’ over this way!”

I am not a yeller.

But in a moment of extreme PTSD – complete with flashbacks of living with the last toilet flood damage for 184 days – I yelled.

“Be quiet! Everyone – be quiet!”

Because apparently sopping up water demands silence. At least for Mommies who cannot tune out children.

It took both of their towels and a third fresh one from the linen closet to soak up all the PooWater, leaving me with extraordinarily unclean-feeling feet.

But it’s not like I could wash them off in the bathtub. Or track across my bedroom carpet to the other bathtub.

So I just went back, once more, to my job of detangling.

Mommy's Feet

After everyone was [as clean as they could get in that room] and deposited in their respective bedrooms wearing fresh towels, I carried the sadly abused towels downstairs, using as few fingers as possible and praying that they weren’t wet enough to drip. I opened up the washing machine, ready to fling them in from afar…only to discover that I’d completely forgotten about the last load of laundry the day before.

And this,

All of This,

is why my children are, as of today, required to become hipsters.

I took a few pictures of the perpetrator so that I could remember what cleanliness looks like. To cherish the moment.

Noah Clean

Because he will be allowed bathe again when he’s twenty-one.

The Unpaved Road to Kid’s Market.

This has been my permanent position this week.

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Because I’ve begun the process of consigning. For the first time in my life. With eight years of children’s clothes to wash, sort, match, pin, tag, and tape.

Take special notice of the container of apple juice on the coffee table, where children have begun to resort to helping themselves (and not returning things to the fridge) along the mixture of animal crackers and Play-Doh, a sure sign that I have given up all appearances of parenting.

In Birmingham, the mainstream way to get rid of kid’s clothes is through the giant semi-annual consignment sale, Kid’s Market.

But oh, the process. The pain. The detail.

As I’ve learned the many correct steps of proper consigning, I’ve come across some memories, and some difficult questions and realizations.

I began the journey by going through my returned girl’s clothes from my sister-in-law. I was amazed at the memories tied up in those garments, like the time I had to convince my former boss that Ali wasn’t a production killer, but a morale booster when we came into the office. And if you really want to be convincing, well, you need a t-shirt.

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And the shocking resurgence of vivid images when, upon seeing this outfit for the first time in six years, I recalled the car-destroying blowout (and poo-clapping) that Ali had in it.

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(Maybe I shouldn’t sell that…)

(At least the skirt was brown.)

A few hours after that memory crashed into my consciousness, I came back downstairs after putting the kids to bed only to ACTUALLY SMELL THE POO.

It was like the Ghost of Watery Craps Past had come to visit me.

I was shocked and horrified. Could the power of memory be that strong? Or did that outfit never quite lose its special scent?

Then I walked into the kitchen and, with relief, saw that the smell was actually caused by the fact that Chris had gotten halfway through cleaning out the fridge and had bailed to put the kids to bed.

Then the questions began.

Like, was this mysterious item my garter, my sister-in-law’s garter, or an especially disturbing newborn headpiece?

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And whose glove was this? How long had it been exiled to the bags of children’s clothes, mourning the loss of its soulmate?

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Then the real agony began: the tagging.

Items must be…

1. Safety-pinned onto wire hangers,
2. Masking-taped with my ID number, and
3. Labeled with a barcode price tag, also safety-pinned on.

I quickly learned that I am not safety-pin proficient – at least when stabbing large-yet-dull safety pins through mounds of clothing – and began wondering if my fingers would ever be water-tight again.

(WHY is it a rule that the bigger the safety pin, the duller its point? The bigger the safety pin, the more I need it to function properly, PIN COMPANIES.)

I also regretted the fact that I wasn’t diabetic, as I had plenty of finger pricks to go around. I could have known my glucose levels down to the millisecond.

And how do I keep from bleeding on everything? It seems like a blood-streak through the middle of a price tag might deter purchases, but my fingers looked and felt as if they’d gone through the meat-grinder.

Several garments in, my heart had a panic attack when I realized that I might be doing it ALL wrong. What if I were hanging all of these clothes, so painfully stretched to fit a newborn shirt onto a full-sized adult hanger and then double safety-pinned to boot, in the wrong direction??!

This thought was horrifying. My fingers were already tracked worse than Lindsay Lohan’s arms. I could not bear the thought of having to redo it all.

So I called My Friend The Expert – this was worthy of more than a text, even – and asked her to please explain to me which way the hangers should be facing.

“They should look like a question mark. And yes, you have to get that right or you’ll have to turn everything around.”

“Like a question mark. When they’re facing me?”

“Yes.”

“Wait a minute…”

(I had to draw a question mark. Then look at it twice to make sure I’d drawn it correctly. These are the pains of being left-handed.)

“Okay. It’s a miracle. I’m doing it right!!”

Halfway through the first day of pinning, hangering, stabbing, and barcoding, I decided that I should hire my babysitter to do this for me. But then realized that would defeat the point of my frugal endeavor, and I had no Workman’s Comp to offer her and she would quite likely contract tetanus which I was sure I already had in eight out of ten fingers.

After day two, I had 82 hangers full of clothes, most containing two or more items bundled together.

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And yet my to-do piles were hardly diminishing.

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Of course, because the only thing that makes life fun is turning it into a spreadsheet, I’d tracked the prices of my hangers and tallied the value of my work thus far. I tried to convince myself it was worth my future in Finger Rehab.

As I laid in bed, my fingers throbbing as they shriveled up and died like a Wicked Witch’s feet under a house, I had the thought that perhaps I should save these clothes instead – so that Ali could see all the precious outfits I dressed her in as a baby.

I slapped myself and pointed out the 100,000 photos I took of her before she turned one, and fell asleep to the comfort that I had snapped them while I could – because my fingers will never be able to push buttons again.

When Readers Come to Stay.

When it comes to me being a real person (which I am, by the way,) there are several different kinds of blog readers.

1. The Voyeuristic – This blog reader sees me out, watches me while I eat an entire meal, studies my interactions with my family, and then happens to mention two weeks later that they were sitting right next to me at dinner that one night.

This person scares the crackers out of me. Because then I have to frantically try to remember back a fortnight and analyze what kind of mood I was in, did my children have boogers smeared across their faces, and was I wearing leggings as pants (after a run of course), and did it fall into that half-week where I had a zit so big that I looked like Cyclops’ favorite girlfriend?

But then again I can’t be too indignant because I’ve totally done the same thing.

2. The Opportunistic – When this blog reader sees me out, they come over, say hello, and introduce themselves.

I seriously love it when this happens, because I get to meet someone new, and oftentimes put a face to a collection of comments that I have tucked away in a box in my mind. I remember most fondly the blog readers I’ve met like this.

3. The Aggressive – This blog reader contacts me and asks if we can meet up. At the park, at lunch, or to photograph sunsets. Or even out of state – I’ve met blog friends in Atlanta, Mississippi, and in various cities that I’ve travelled through.

I also adore this blog reader, as I so enjoy the relational side of blogging, but don’t always have the time or mental capability to reciprocate by asking them on a second date, so then I feel horrifically guilty and torture myself for being a terrible friend.

4. Heather Neufeld.

Heather earned a category all to herself because she asked if she could come stay in my house.

For five days.

From Mozambique.

Although we have never had a single phone call (this relationship is so twenty-teens), Heather and I have been chatting for a few years now, she’s shared stunning stories of her and her husband’s missions work in Mozambique (she’s actually Canadian and is home on furlough so technically she only flew from Canada to see me…but it was in the works before that), and I’ve gotten to see all of her amazing pictures and read more stories on her blog.

Without meaning to, she’s challenged me in much-needed and impactful ways – there have been a few nights when I’ve been fed up with all the things that went “wrong” in my day, and we’ve started chatting on Facebook, where she offhandedly mentions what happened in her world that day – mothers whose babies died in childbirth because the hospital staff was on strike and refused to perform an emergency c-section, school children getting eaten by crocodiles, fires threatening to overtake their missions compound….ours is a vital perspective-righting relationship for me.

I’ve been able to send her clothes for her kids, especially after they adopted Ryan, their second, and he came to them with no clothes, in a country where there’s not exactly a way to buy decent children’s clothing (I consider using my bombtastic shopping skills at my local outlet mall as a ministry – if I can send $600 worth of clothes for less than $100, I figure it’s better than sending that same missionary $100, plus I got the gift of going shopping.)

They have no electricity. (They have a generator.)

Or any sort of postal service. (She drives two full days to another country to get her mail.)

But they do have dang good internet service and even 3G in the middle of the river where her husband hunts those crocodiles to keep them from eating the locals, so internet relationships are kinda perfect.

So anyway.

When Heather asked if she and her oldest child, Tendai, could come visit us, I went to Chris and said, “Hey…uhhhhmm….I have a blog reader that wants to come stay with us. For….five days. How do you feel about that?”

Since he’s been around the internet block a few times with me, and he’d heard many of Heather’s stories through me, and his gift is hospitality (mine is not, which I was sure to tell Heather multiple times as a disclaimer and warning), he readily agreed, and helped me plan their visit and changed the sheets and other stuff that I would never think about.

Because my gift is not hospitality.

I picked Heather and Tendai up from the airport on Thursday afternoon, we immediately went to eat at Nabeel’s, because we take all people there first to fully experience the wonder that is Birmingham Greek Culture, and within minutes of arriving back at home, our kids were bonding like kids do these days – glowing faces.

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We took them to our small group that night, where Heather shared all of her best missionary stories, and then we left the next morning for a road trip.

Because Heather had a list of things I’d blogged about that she wanted to experience. Specifically: Unclaimed Baggage. In fact, I’m nearly positive that she actually came to Alabama for Unclaimed Baggage and I was just a good excuse to make that happen.

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It did not disappoint. I swear the iPad prices get lower every day…

The kids were fans, too, finding the most interesting items, and not getting any dread diseases, since Unclaimed Baggage dry cleans everything.

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The climbing apparatuses were also a hit.

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(This behavior is not recommended by nor endorsed by Unclaimed Baggage.)

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But whatever it takes to keep happy kids throughout a shopping experience is what I recommend and endorse.

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…Including blowing kisses back and forth from this precarious situation.

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For the overnight portion of our road trip, we stayed at my favorite, The General Woods Inn. There is something magically calming about their porch – I am re-amazed by it on every visit.

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Tendai got her exercise,

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Noah showed his disdain for Orange Juice,

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And all three kids got to experience the grace of being Southern Royalty.

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We then drove 30 minutes north to Chattanooga to visit the Tennessee Aquarium.

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Tendai and Heather enjoyed the touch tanks, although my kids preferred keeping the relationship between themselves and sharks as observational only.

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The penguins were my favorite, and I think they were Noah’s, too.

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(And yes, I did buy the girls matching Tea Collection dresses. We were, after all, going for “All of Rachel’s Favorite Things” trip. And the matching was beyond adorable.)

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We arrived just in time for the Scuba show, and the presenter blew kisses in response to Tendai’s affection toward him.

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They saw butterflies,

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Waterfalls,

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And got to actually enter into the Spider Crab exhibit.

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The aquarium was definitely a happy place for all three kids, and delightfully uncrowded.

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After eating lunch and checking out some local graffiti,

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(Where we were all disappointed at not finding a single Moist,)

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We rode the Incline Railway – because you can’t go to Chattanooga without going on the world’s steepest railroad.

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I didn’t have a good enough seat to get a decent picture this trip, but here’s one from my last ride up in 2009:

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After having to duct tape my car back together, because that’s what you do in Alabama when a piece decides to fly away on the interstate,

Me Fixing Car with Duct TapePhoto by Heather

We headed back to Birmingham, where we did a whirlwind tour of all of my favorite things: city overlooks, Silvertron, went to my church, ate Jim N Nicks BBQ, went to the Outlet Mall, ate twice at Chick-fil-a (GUYS – Heather didn’t even know how to pronounce Chick-fil-a. It came out something like “chick-PHIL-uh”….needless to say, her life is changed), watched her first Super Bowl while eating Conecuh Sausage (okay the Super Bowl is not on my favorites list), had family lunch where we ate my Mom’s Chicken Pot Pie and chocolate cake, had a successful spotting of several Moist tags, and took the kids to McWane Science Center.

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Although a bed of nails is always fun,

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The bubble room ended up being their favorite, where we got some really fun pictures,

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and slo-mo video.

And of course, we forced her to take proper Bama gear back for the entire family,

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And we went blue jean shopping – because, after all, she’d originally found my blog via my butt – like everyone else.

Which, may I say, was shockingly the thing she was most surprised about.

“I can’t believe you’d take me blue jean shopping!”, says Heather.

“I let you fly all the way around the world and stay at my house for nearly a week and the BLUE JEAN SHOPPING is what surprised you?!”, said I.

Although I immensely enjoyed my time with Heather and am always challenged and motivated by her perspective of the world from living in a third world country, the kids were the most precious part of the trip. They bonded so tightly that they will all be talking about each other daily for years.

Ali’s already written Tendai a pen pal letter,

Pen Pal Letters

And Noah ended each night of the stay with a giant hug.

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One night, they were yelling back and forth between their rooms after being put to bed.

“GOOD NIGHT, TENDAI!!!”

“I LOVE YOU, NOAH!!!”

“I KNOW YOU SO MUCH, TENDAI!!!”

I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I kinda loved it.

And this is why I blog. Because what other medium can create such fantastic friendships – for me and my kids – from literally the other side of the earth?

But don’t all book your trips at once. It’s time that I go back to being an introvert – at least for a little while.