The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 4

Two weeks ago, my 74-year-old father called and told me that he’d fallen and broken his leg in three places. By the time he called me, he was already in the hospital and they were planning on operating the following morning. He’d had another health scare back in November, so I was extremely worried for him, but surgery went well. In order to make sure everything stayed in place post-surgery, he had to have a metal cage put around his leg with pins going into his skin to hold the bones where they were supposed to be. Icky, but sure, fine. After my son had his heart transplant, he was brought back to his room with his chest still open (covered with surgical saran wrap) and it stayed open for a few days–I’m not super squeamish about medical stuff. The plan was to wait for the swelling to go down and then the doctor would operate again and remove the cage/stabby apparatus. But, in the meantime, the doctors didn’t want my dad to stay in the hospital because there’s a global pandemic going on.

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Despite what the idiotic governor of my state thinks.
Get fucked, Ducey, you ignorant potato.

So, since my dad can’t care for himself at home right now due to his leg being in a medical bear trap, the doctors sent him to an assisted living facility. A week ago, my dad called and told me that the facility had three positive test results for COVID-19. Then, the call I was dreading came last night a couple of hours after I wrote yesterday’s post–my dad tested positive for COVID-19.

All things considered, he’s doing well. He doesn’t currently have any symptoms other than a positive test result and he was transferred to another facility. Which is good news so far, but I’m going to be honest–I’m a little freaked out right now. I’m very worried about him and I hate feeling helpless.

Who knew my saving grace was going to come in the form of a ridiculous cleaning challenge? Certainly not me.

By deciding to continue to push forward with this challenge, cleaning the house (and deep cleaning the living room) kept me occupied today. Plus, since I’ve been doing routine maintenance all week, today didn’t feel that bad in terms of time or effort because I was just doing small things to keep my house clean and I wasn’t starting from scratch. Or I was distracted due to the effort of trying not to think about my dad and all the scary “what ifs” I’m not ready to deal with yet. That’s not to say I’m trying to ignore my feelings, but cleaning like a 1950s housewife kept me from lying in bed all day in a depressive state while binging multiple seasons of America’s Next Top Model and eating my weight in junk food.

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I have really solid coping mechanisms.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t do anything practical to help me process what’s going on–Jon and I met with our therapist via video chat today, and Jon and I have also talked a lot about my dad one-on-one. Right now, I’m exhausted. The house looks great, I did the therapy thing, and I even drank more water today than I have any other day this week.

via Tumblr

On the plus side, the designated deep clean weekly chores have all been completed for this week, according to the challenge schedule. Since I have a “free day” of sorts for tomorrow, I’m planning on using it to deep clean the laundry room. Then maybe I’ll finally lose my mind and bake myself into a pie.

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Me @ 2020

If I’ve totally bummed you out with this post because you were expecting the introspective, feminist analysis I promised yesterday…my bad. In its place, please enjoy the new music video from Michael Franti & Spearhead for his song “This is How We Living” which is one of the only things that held me together today.


Day 5: …everyone else already knows how to adult, don’t they?


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The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 3

I hate my kitchen.

I knew today would be time consuming because I’d have to take everything out of every drawer and cabinet, but it was…a lot. Plus, we’re renting our house and I’m pretty sure the oven has been cleaned exactly never since it was purchased and installed. If that isn’t enough, the kitchen is also where the dogs live and although I love them, they’re gross. We have to keep them in the kitchen, partly due to Kiddo’s immune suppression and partly because our big dog has Cushing’s Disease, which can give her questionable control over her bladder. Considering the fact that the rest of the house is carpeted, I think it’s clear why she stays in the kitchen.

After spending three days cleaning like a 1950s housewife, I honestly don’t know how my grandmother did this every day without being on speed. I’m also starting to understand why so many housewife memes involve references to drinking.

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Jon has been super supportive of me taking on this challenge and has been kind enough to check on me every day to make sure I haven’t totally lost my mind. However, I nearly ended up on an episode of Snapped when we were discussing the oven.

“It took forever, but look at the window on the oven door!” I said proudly, pointing to it. The window had been caked with multiple years worth of grease and god only knows what else and, after scrubbing it for nearly an hour, the window now functions like a window.

“I don’t remember what it looked like before,” Jon admitted.

“You couldn’t see through it before!” I exclaimed, my voice beginning to involuntarily take on a high, anxious pitch. “How else are you supposed to check on food while it’s cooking?!”

“I just…open the oven door,” Jon said slowly.

“ALTON BROWN SAYS TO NOT OPEN THE DOOR WHILE YOU’RE COOKING BECAUSE IT RELEASES ALL THE HEAT!”

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I both love and fear him.

It’s not Jon’s fault and I’m not trying to blame him for not noticing the window in the oven door. He’s super easy going (clearly, opposites attract) and he’s very adaptable to whatever the circumstances are. Plus, he has told me probably a dozen times a day how great the house looks and I feel very appreciated for all the labor I’m putting into our home during this challenge. But, clearly, the kitchen got to me today.

I honestly thought I’d at least make it through a week before I showed signs of losing it.

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Or myself.

I have a longer post planned about the terminology used for women who stay home instead of getting jobs outside of the house, and I’d planned on writing it today…but I’m honestly so exhausted that I can barely think straight right now. Early to bed, early to rise, makes Emily a dull boy or some shit.

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Day 4: Apparently cleaning is therapeutic or whatever.


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The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 2

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but when I woke up this morning I was really sore. I felt like I’d gone for a run or something, but all I did yesterday was clean. Jon tried to make me feel better by pointing out that I was on my feet all day and I worked really hard to clean, but let’s be honest: the muscle soreness is a reflection of how out of shape I’ve gotten lately.

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Apparently this is no longer true.

Day 2 went a lot more smoothly than Day 1. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect from the daily maintenance chores, but, regardless, I felt like I breezed through the first part. My weekly chore was to deep clean the bathrooms, which is the one I was dreading the most because ick, bathrooms.

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Overall though, the bathrooms weren’t that bad. Sure, it was gross scrubbing in every little nook and cranny, but it was fine. As per the list, I took stock of all the toiletries I have and threw out a bunch of stuff that was expired and although I was initially disgusted by the sheer volume of stuff I had, I feel like I managed to stave off the official hoarder diagnosis.

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Due to the fact that apparently none of our towels were clean, I spent the whole day laundering towels and bathroom rugs and shower curtains, much to the horror of my dogs. My dogs are somewhat terrified of the washer and dryer, which dates back to about eight years ago. Jon and I were living in an apartment that came with a washer and dryer. On a couple of different occasions, the load of laundry in the washing machine was very uneven. This caused the washer to literally burst out of the laundry closet, knocking the door off of its hinges as it stomped toward us like it was hellbent on revenge. Despite the fact that we moved out of that apartment and now own our own washer and dryer, neither of which has ever done this because we’re bougie AF and the washing machine has a sensor that autocorrects an uneven load, the dogs have never forgotten this and quiver in terror every time I do laundry. As was to be expected, both dogs have absolutely hated the volume of laundry I’ve done over the past two days.

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This is Sam, the dog who will never recover from this level of betrayal.

However, despite the dogs’ discomfort, doing all of our laundry like this has made me realize that we don’t actually have the space to store it all because we have SO MUCH STUFF. Apparently I’ve been relying on having half of our towels in the hamper at all times in order to make everything fit.

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Don’t call TLC yet, I’m working on it!

I’m not proud of this discovery, but I’m taking the opportunity to weed through our stuff and see what we can donate. At least now that I’m aware of the problem, I can correct it.

Now that I’m done with cleaning for today (laundry included!) I’m noticing something unsettling–I still have the urge to keep cleaning. I’m exhausted, but I’m still looking around my living room, trying to see if I missed a spot while I dusted this morning. I’ve also noticed that I’ve started side-eyeing Jon and Kiddo any time they walk across the freshly vacuumed carpet. Which is ridiculous because they live here and should feel free to enjoy their home, especially now that it’s so clean you could do surgery on nearly every surface. Besides, it’s not like I’m not going to clean again–any infinitesimal amount of dirt that might collect in the carpet will get vacuumed tomorrow. I’m just going overboard, but that’s not a great thing to see when I’m only on Day 2.

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Uh oh.

On the plus side, I decided to partake in the list item that suggests I change into something more “festive” at the end of the day. I changed out of the t-shirt I wore while cleaning the bathroom and into a clean shirt, so I’m pretty sure that counts.

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Fuck off, I love my yoga pants.

Day 3: I hate my kitchen.


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The 1950s Housewife Challenge: Day 1

I’m (almost) done with Day 1 and holy crap am I exhausted. I think I figured out why women didn’t have any rights in the 1950s–you can’t fight the patriarchy if you’re fucking exhausted from doing eight million daily loads of laundry (and no, I’m not exaggerating that number. I’m offended you’d even suggest that).

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Day 1 got off to a bit of a rocky start. I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times, and last night my brain decided that I needed to stay awake until the sun started to rise because why the fuck not? It got to the point where I was lying in bed, wide awake, wondering if I’d reached a new stage of human evolution to where I didn’t need sleep. Either that, or I was about to become Al Pacino in Insomnia.

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I’m sure this is going to turn out just fine.

Then I finally passed out and got a late start to my day, which is exactly how you want to feel when embarking on a new project. I did my usual homeschool stuff with Kiddo and then I decided to tackle the challenge. Things started out pretty well and I was feeling great about the progress I was seeing in the house. Was it perfect? No, but it was cleaner! The house felt brighter! Everything was better!

And then I started on the “weekly” task of deep cleaning the bedrooms.

Our bedroom wasn’t even that dirty, but scrubbing every little nook and cranny still took forever. At one point, Jon walked in as I was taking down the curtains to wash them.

“You’re washing the curtains?” he asked. “Why, are we moving?”

“It’s on the list!” I screeched in a totally normal tone of voice. He backed away slowly, making sure to never turn his back on me.

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Similar to the way you should never turn your back on a tiger.
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Or Carol Baskin.

I took care of our bedroom before moving on to Kiddo’s room, which went a little faster once I’d gotten the hang of everything and didn’t have to keep checking my to do list. Overall it was fine, but I have now become aware of exactly how many linens we actually have in our house. Before today, I thought decorative pillows were kind of nice because I’m a basic bitch and Target owns my soul. Now, after having to wash them all goddamn day, I’m thinking they’re a gigantic waste of time and space. It’s 9PM as I’m writing this and the washer and dryer are still running, which is really cutting into my instructions to “enjoy an evening of relaxation.”

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As anticipated, I chose to ignore a few of the daily tasks that pertain to me being polite and dolled up at the end of the day. I’m still wearing leggings and my “Filthy Mouthed Wife” t-shirt instead of changing into something more “festive” for the evening, but I did, as promised, make sure I was wearing deodorant so Jon would be more inclined to want to sit by me on the couch while we re-watch old seasons of Survivor.

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As I lay draped across the couch, exhausted from scrubbing nooks and crannies I didn’t know existed in the bedrooms, I told Jon I was supposed to “greet him gayly” at the end of his workday.

“Does that just mean you’re going to say hello while you do awkward finger guns?” he asked.

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He knows me well.

Even though I’ve spent the bulk of this post whining about how tired I am, I’m overall pleased with how today went for Day 1 of this challenge. The house feels cleaner and enjoying it now in the evening while I wait for the laundry to finish feels kind of like a reward. It’s not like our house was a disaster area before this; with an immunocompromised kid, things are generally pretty clean around here. But because I spent the bulk of my day cleaning, it does feel kind of nice to enjoy the house in its current state. However, other than doing school stuff with Kiddo earlier, I had absolutely no room in my day for anything else. But, that being said, hopefully I’ve worn myself out enough so I’ll actually get some sleep tonight.

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Day 2: Ugh, bathrooms.


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The 1950s Housewife Challenge: WTF Am I Thinking?

Keep the Sanitarium on Speed Dial

During one of my regularly scheduled existential crises, I had an idea: I’m going to commit to keeping my home like a 1950s housewife. I texted my best friend, who always supports every batshit idea I have, and told my spouse, Jon, whose reaction looked a little like this:

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To be fair, he might have been partially reacting to my announcement in which I said, “I can’t tell if I’m finally getting my shit together or if I’m on the verge of a psychotic break, but I’m going to clean the house like a 1950s housewife for two weeks!”

“Should I be concerned?” he asked slowly, careful to avoid making any sudden movements around me.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Well…maybe.”

Honestly, I don’t know if he should be worried. I think I’m a little worried. I’ve struggled a lot with my identity over the last several years since I became a mom, and my life has taken turns I didn’t expect. I’m still freelance writing, but my main responsibilities now are caring for and homeschooling my medically high needs kid who has some delays due to the heart transplant he received as a newborn. My son is absolutely my favorite person and I love spending time with him, but being a stay at home mom was never part of my plan. I like working and I have a lot of personal issues about my personal identity and value being strongly tied to how much I financially contribute to our household. But, things change and my role has shifted so now writing is secondary to my roles at home. As a feminist, I support women’s rights to choose to live their lives in the way they want and if they choose to be a housewife, I support that. It’s just not something I had originally planned for my own life.

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I don’t want it to seem like I don’t want to be here for my son, because I absolutely do. I will move heaven and earth to support him, but in doing so, it makes me confront a lot of my own issues like the aforementioned idea that my worth is tied to how much money I personally make. Plus, I’ve noticed that ever since I got pregnant with my son, some people have chosen to define me solely by the fact that I’m a mom. I love being a parent, but I also don’t think it’s the most interesting thing about me. I’m still a person with thoughts and ideas and interests, and when my identity is reduced to just being a mother, it makes me feel like I’m not an individual anymore and my worth is determined by my relation to someone else. For example, I have a friend who, while he means well, has literally introduced me to other adults as “Kiddo’s mom”–and this is a friend whom I knew for several years before having my son.

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So if I’m so resistant to being a stay at home mom, why am I embracing a challenge to act like a 1950s housewife for two weeks? That’s an excellent question you didn’t ask, and I’m going to answer it!

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As a feminist, I have a weird fascination with the 1950s and 60s and the overly restrictive roles of women. I suppose my interest could be described as anthropological, and I think it’s important as a woman to understand where women have been in order to better see where we’re going. I’ve also always had an interest in cleaning and organization and I work well within rules and guidelines for how to get from point A to point B.

Or maybe I’m just trying to scrub away the existential dread because if I’m cleaning, then THE SCARY THOUGHTS CAN’T GET ME!

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There’s also an element of mental health at play. I live with depression, anxiety, and mild PTSD and I know I have a tendency to start new projects when I’m trying to kick myself out of a depressive episode. Due to COVID-19 and the fact that both Jon and our son are in high risk groups, we’ve been doing no-contact quarantine since March with exceptions only for our son when he has medical appointments that can’t be done remotely, and we will continue to quarantine for the foreseeable future. Part of me is hoping that if I improve our physical space, my mental health will improve. There are some studies to back up that hope, but I also know that I run the risk of taking things too far. My hope is that by setting up parameters instead of doing this indefinitely, I’ll be able to remember that this is a temporary challenge and keep my brain in check. Plus, by making myself write about my experience every day, this will theoretically help kickstart my creativity and get me back into writing regularly.

Theoretically.

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The Challenge

Here are the particulars for the challenge I’m about to embark on:

  • Adhere to a daily cleaning schedule as outlined below in addition to my usual activities including homeschooling my son. This list was taken from a variety of sources, including the 1947 The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping Book.
  • Stick to the schedule for two weeks.
  • Blog about my experiences daily.

The one thing I won’t be doing is cooking dinner, which is very non-1950s of me. However, Jon is much more a cook than I am and I know he enjoys it, so I feel like sticking with those roles for now. However, if I’m not reading to strangle myself with my apron strings by the end of week one, I might try to incorporate cooking into week two of the challenge.

The Cleaning Task List

Daily:

  • Throwback the covers
  • Open up the blinds and windows
  • Make and serve breakfast
  • Clean up breakfast
  • Gather a basket for tidying. As the rooms of the home are tackled, pick up items that aren’t where they belong and place them in a basket. Redistribute them where they should be as you enter a new room
  • Straighten up the living and dining room, including picking up potential clutter, light dusting, fluffing/straightening pillows, and watering plants or flowers
  • Make the beds
  • Tidy the bedroom, including light dusting
  • Hang up any clothes that may need to be put away, and ensure dirty ones are in the hamper
  • Do a light tidy of the bathroom including removing and replacing used towels, refilling toilet paper and soap (if needed) and cleaning the sink and basin area including soap dishes.
  • Order grocery delivery (due to our need to quarantine, I’ll be ordering groceries instead of doing the grocery shopping myself).
  • Wipe down kitchen work surfaces and inside the fridge
  • Dispose of garbage
  • Sweep or mop the kitchen floor
  • Handle weekly chore for the day (more on that below)
  • Set the table for dinner
  • Arrange the living room for evening enjoyment (this is where it says to do things like prepare “the Mister’s” newspaper/book, but Jon is an adult who can get his own shit. However, I will use this time to straighten up the living room and make sure it’s reset, so to speak).
  • Do a quick sweep of the floors and ensure entrance ways are clear
  • Freshen up before the husband returns from work (Jon works from home and at this point will have likely heard me shouting expletives from various rooms of the house, but I could use this time to make sure I’m wearing deodorant. You’re welcome, Jon).
  • Consider changing into something more festive if the day dress is plain (HAHAHAHA!)
  • Set out a tray with equipment for making cocktails, should “the Mister” want to serve drinks before dinner (we’re not big drinkers, but I’m happy to set out the bottle opener should he want it).
  • Greet husband “gayly” (Sure, Jan).
  • Have dinner
  • Clear table and wash dishes
  • Pour boiling water down the sink to ensure pipes are flushed and scrub out the sink
  • Set table for breakfast (I suppose I can make sure my coffee mug is ready to go).
  • Enjoy an evening of relaxation

Weekly-Bedroom:

  • Remove everything from closets. Vacuum closet floor. Put everything back neatly and donate items you no longer need.
  • For each drawer: remove items, wash drawer, place items back
    neatly. Donate Items you no longer need.
  • Move bed. Sort and put away anything that was under bed. Sweep
    or vacuum under bed. (Our bed has drawers underneath, but I can pull out the drawers, clean/reset them, and vacuum the carpet before putting the drawers back).
  • Freshen mattress by sprinkling with baking soda,
    letting sit briefly, and the vacuuming it up.
  • Launder bedding and curtains. Wash pillows and duvet in hot water.
  • Dust lights. Clean lamp shades.
  • Wash windows and window sills. Take out and wash window
    screens.
  • Wash switch plates. Wash walls and trim as needed.
  • Wash mirrors or dust art.
  • Wash doors and doorknobs.
  • Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  • Vacuum floor.

Weekly-Bathroom:

  • Empty all cabinets and vanity. Wash inside, replace items neatly.
  • Discard expired medications and cosmetics.
  • Wash outside of cabinets and vanities
  • Clean tub/shower. Clean drain.
  • Clean toilet, inside and out. Remove seat and clean around seat
    bolts.
  • Clean sink and drain.
  • Shine faucets.
  • Clean mirror and frame.
  • Dust light fixtures.
  • Wash windows and window sills. Take out and wash window
    screens.
  • Wash switch plates. wash walls and trim. Wash doors and door
    knobs.
  • Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  • Sweep and wash floors.

Weekly-Kitchen:

  • Remove and clean window coverings.
  • For each cabinet or drawer: Remove items, wipe out drawer, place items back neatly. Donate unneeded items.
  • Wash cabinet doors and knobs
  • Clean and organize pantry. Check food expiry dates.
  • Clean oven.
  • Clean stove top. Remove elements and drip bowls, if applicable, wash and put back.
  • Clean and organize fridge and freezer. Check food expiry dates.
  • Clean under fridge and stove.
  • Vacuum refrigerator coils.
  • Clean microwave.
  • Clean crumbs out of toaster.
  • Wipe down any other counter appliances
  • Wash counters and back splash.
  • Wash and shine sink. Shine faucet. Clean drain.
  • Clean dishwasher.
  • Dust light fixtures.
  • Wash windows and window sills. Remove window screens and wash.
  • Clean floors.

Weekly-Living Room:

  • Vacuum sofas.
  • Spot clean sofas, if applicable.
  • Launder throw pillows and blankets.
  • Dust shelves, furniture, and decor.
  • Clean lamps and lampshades.
  • Wash windows and window sills.
  • Clean television screen.
  • Carefully dust electronics.
  • Tidy electronics wires. Tuck nicely out of sight. Label them, if practical.
  • Sort through music and DVD collections. Purge things that no longer suit your families interests. Organize what is left in an attractive manner.
  • Sort books and magazines. Donate or recycle items that no longer suit your families interests.
  • Wash hard plastic children’s toys with warm soapy water. Rinse and dry. Launder stuffed toys. Donate or store toys that your children have grown too old for.
  • Wash switch plates.
  • Wash walls and trim as needed.
  • Wash doors and knobs.
  • Wash floor registers and other vent covers.
  • Clean floors.

There’s no specific day that laundry is supposed to be done (unless otherwise listed like washing linens on the weekly tasks), so I guess I’m going to improv it and just have to pick a day to wash our clothes. But, I’ll do my best to make sure the laundry gets done before the three of us run out of clean underwear.

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In Conclusion

Am I ready for tomorrow? Now that I’ve typed everything out…it seems a little daunting, but I guess I’m as ready as I’m going to be. My goal is to get the bulk of the cleaning plus homeschooling my son by the time 5PM rolls around since that’s when Jon finishes working for the day and usually starts dinner, leaving only post-dinner kitchen cleanup and “enjoy a relaxing evening” on my to do list.

As for Jon’s opinion on the whole thing, he is cautiously supportive but (understandably) still a little concerned that this is me burning really brightly before I crash.

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However, I think Jon’s starting to come around to the idea.

“We should get you an apron!” he exclaimed.

I’m fairly certain that this idea is due less to the idea of permanently relegating me to the kitchen and more because he thinks I’d look cute in an apron.


Day 1: I didn’t know it was physically possible to do this much laundry in one day.


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