Kids mess the house while it gets cleaned

Published 9:19 am Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Column: Pothole Prairie, by Tim Engstrom

This column already is breaking the rules. Normally, columnists don’t refer to the column as a start to a column. But you are sharing a journey with me today, and I feel like breaking some rules.

I’ll flat out tell you what this column is about. It’s about brewing beer, children, winter in Minnesota and getting organized. It’s about my past weekend. That’s not exactly thrilling stuff, but, at the end, there is a point to all this.

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It had been a long time since I made beer, probably two years. On Saturday night, my wife went out with a friend, and I stayed home with the two boys. I went into the basement and pulled my brewing equipment out of a closet. I just so happened to have a beer kit — in which the necessary ingredients come — for an American pale ale. I cleaned and scrubbed the kitchen and my equipment to completeness, as all brewing requires spotless sanitation.

Meanwhile, I am encouraging the 6-year-old to play with the 1-year-old. The best way to care for kids is to get them entertain each other, right?

Many of these sort of evenings are spent with me playing with them, but on this one — this one — I wanted to do a daddy activity. Getting them to play with each other worked for a spell, but once I began playing mad scientist they were curious about what I was doing. So the older boy, Forrest, who enjoys making food but is a finicky eater, became my partner, and I promised him I would make root beer in the near future. I needed him to hold the muslin bag when I poured the grains into it, anyway, and he ended up being my fetcher of utensils throughout the evening.

It was hectic because I still had to keep an eye on Jasper, who had no intention of going to sleep this particular evening. Sigh.

The beer got made nevertheless. The next day, with it being so bitter cold outside, I worked on cleaning the basement. A spouse of mine, who shall remain nameless, likes to store stuff — blankets, baby swing, clothes the kids don’t wear, you name it — in my manly man space in the basement for tools and fixing stuff. That means getting to my tools for projects — such as assembling a shelf she bought at Ikea with a gift certificate — gets fairly difficult. Enough! My man space is not a storage place.

Yes, yes, I probably sound harsh, but you must read that with humor. Think Clark Griswold or Tim Taylor. To be sure, my wonderful wife was happy that I cleaned up that area.

But I did it while she was working on some work-related work. All day long, she was glued to a computer, while I toiled. That meant I washed, dried, folded and put away a bunch of clothes and — and — organized this space while having to watch the boys, who promptly messed up the play room, which occupies the other half of the basement.

You may have seen the TV commercials where a woman says, “Calgon, take me away.” Yeah, it should come in a man’s version, too.

I know, some stay-at-home parents are saying, “Boo hoo, that’s my life every day.” There is no doubt that for many people work is a break from home and home is a break from work.

Now that the basement is clean, our goal next weekend is to clean the house. The entire house! Oh, don’t get me wrong, the house is clean. Visitors are welcome. It’s just that many things are not where they belong. I’d say it isn’t organized properly. There is that style of cleaning where out of sight is out of mind, and then there is that style of cleaning where everything is in its place.

For many items, that place ought to be the Salvation Army, the landfill or a recycling center. What I really mean to say is we intend to better organize the stuff in our house.

However, that seems to be a lot easier without children. Heck, perhaps even with older children, because we somewhat are like a Loretta Lynn song:

But here in Topeka the screen door’s a bangin’

The coffee’s boilin’ over and the wash needs a hangin’

One wants a cookie and one wants a changin’ and one’s on the way

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just pawn our children for a day, organize everything, then just get them back? Oh, wait, most people have grandparents for that. Yeah, well, ours live out of town. We need a grandparent rental service, really. I’d love to see a Seinfeld episode where George and Jerry have to watch a couple of children for two or three days.

Seinfeld himself has three children nowadays. He did some stand-up comedy on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” where he said children are here to replace us: “We’ll who is wearing the diapers when this is all over.”

What was the point of this column? I said there was a point. Hey, get back here, kids, with my point!


Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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