Julie Lyles Carr: Newtonian Housekeeping

Monday, May 19, 2008

Newtonian Housekeeping

I don't claim to be Madame Curie, but I do run a lab of sorts, a scientific environment ripe for observing the tendencies and patterns that govern the housekeeping habits of my day. In my laboratory, we test such burning theories as "How long must you allow oatmeal to sit in a bowl before it hardens to the consistency of mortar?" and "If 4 pair of muddy shoes are located in the center of the foyer, how many days can the average family member ignore their existence, preferring to trip over them to putting them away?" You see the kind of heady research that we are conducting here, all in the name of ground-breaking science.

Of course,this housekeeping lab has been up and running for almost two decades now, and so I feel confident that there are some theories that we have tested long enough to provide platform for responsible publication. What I have uncovered here in the science of what I call Newtonian Housekeeping is that, shockingly, regardless of the effort exerted by the Housekeeper (that would be me), the natural state of the Octamom House is chaos, complete and total. It is important to grasp this overall guiding truth before we move on to the headier stuff because it provides the principle strut off which the following formulas swing. This rule of clutter chaos is so predominant in the Octamom Household Lab that I have actually arrived back at the house, having taken ALL the children with me, to find a bigger mess than when I left; for example, the time I ran kids to the dance school and got back to the house to find that the float on the washer had failed and there was now enough water standing on my wood floors to fill an above-ground pool. Or the time the cat found every Kleenex box on the premises and proceeded to render said tissue product into almost microscopic bits of reconstituted paper/cotton product which circulated through the air ducts and deposited itself on furniture for the next six months--again, while we weren't even on the premises! So you can only imagine what happens to a domicile while we are on the premises...

I have used the 3 Newtonian Laws of Motion as the base theories for Octamom's Newtonian Housekeeping. While I could populate the descriptions with complicated equations, I must leave that bit of math for another day as I have hardening rice cereal in a bowl on which I must keep observation logs. The 3 Octamom Newtonian Housekeeping Laws are as follows:

1. A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless an extremely motivated mother is able to encourage that body to move.
It is amazing to me that a baby can sit in the middle of a room full of other siblings unrolling 16 rolls of toilet paper and all the bodies at rest in that room will stay at rest while the Charmin hits the fan. My first few observations of this phenomenon had me thinking early on that this must be an aberrant experience, something that surely did not happen with any sort of regularity. I now realize that this is a non-response that is predictable and replicable over and over, whether it is toddlers playing with toilet brushes, 4 year old unstuffing stuffed animals or 2 year olds dropping popcorn kernels in the floor vents: the bodies at rest stay at rest....

2. The rate of change of momentum of a body is proportional to the maternal force acting on that kid's body and is hopefully in the same direction.
Chores and upkeep at my house are directly related to my willingness, drive and PrePeriod Rage to keep the troops moving. If I push for a clean bathroom, the body I have set in motion to make that happen will only stay in that direction if my 'encouragement' is proportional to that child's resistance ("I could just pee in the backyard and shower off with the hose and then we wouldn't need a clean bathroom..."). If I allow my maternal force to wane in the least, the change of momentum for that child will fall off considerably, as in, that child will most likely find a way to end up playing Legos again....

3. All forces occur in pairs and these two forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.
I have been able to leave this third law in its original translation from the Latin, but I do feel it appropriate to convert this heady language. In Octamom-speak it reads something like this: The fastest way for a kitchen floor to get dirty is to clean it. "Why, Octamom," you say, "I have seen this myself!" Yes, I know, Dear Reader, this is the part of my theory that I believe the most obvious. My kitchen floor can stay at a certain state of dirty, never more, never less...until I clean it. Then, within a matter of say, 30 minutes, the floor is covered in silt, sand, grass, mud and crushed organic PopTarts (seriously, they do exist...) If I had left the floor in its former state, within the 30 minute window it would look no better, no worse. But the force of my cleaning forces the opposite force to occur and therefore the floor returns to a state of crumby, muddy equilibrium. It does give me pause before I whip out the FloorMate and scrub away; I realize that I am awakening the Anti-Clean-Floor Forces that silently exist along the baseboards.

My Newtonian Housekeeping Theory is not without its weaknesses. I realize that there are those homes out there that somehow manage to stay decorator magazine fresh moment to moment. I have seen these homes, I have been in these homes, I have surprise-dropped by these homes, hoping to catch these alien homemakers in a moment of household mess humanity. It doesn't happen. Regardless of the day, regardless of the circumstance, this Stepford species of domesticity maintains the auspices of a furniture showroom. However, I am presently working on a new theory that would explain the seeming caveat to my well-honed research. I think it may have something to do with Intelligent Design....
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