Saturday, April 21, 2007

the stain whisperer

If you're tracking along like a good, loyal blog reader, you know today I'm in the laundry trenches. Every week (or whenever someone complains about an empty underwear drawer), I face these garments and try to decipher what each family member was doing on any given day. Basically, I can tell my husband is a relatively neat eater with a healthy love for yardwork and the gym, while my kids are heavily involved in grass & dirt-related activities and a little permanent ink artistry on the side. But there are some peculiar tendencies that have me a little puzzled.

First of all, I don't remember giving permission for my daughter to be bucking hay, but it sure looks like she spends at least one day a week in the field. The rainiest day. And she usually wears her beige pants. At least half a dozen times I have saturated these pants with stain remover (I'm going to start buying stock in Ecover), thrown them into the whites pile, and said a quick prayer. Amazingly, they come out looking quite presentable - I'm beginning to wonder exactly what kind of carcinogenic chemicals Old Navy is coating their clothing with to offer such mud resistance. Not to pick on my dear Paige (although it is a relief when she has some odd quality to take the pressure off Mason), but she is a first-class stain magnet. I can usually guess what she had for lunch based on the color and pattern of spots on her shirts, although I was a bit stumped to find a big splotch of jelly on the inside of a sweater this week. Strangely, however, when she dutifully changes into play clothes, there are never any new stains; it's like once they're relegated to the play clothes drawer, those items develop dirt immunity. In the end, I'm glad Paige has that daredevil, go-for-broke attitude when playing - I'm not looking for a girl who squeals when a speck of dust lands on her shoe - but I am hoping the level of filth comes down a notch before we go broke on laundry bills.

Mason, on the other hand, is remarkably stain-free for a boy. He submits the standard grassy knees now and then, and occasionally I find a drip of spaghetti sauce where food would naturally fall. Lately, though, he has come home with his sweatshirt looking like it was buried in the playground for the day. When I asked if it had been stepped on, because there seemed to be actual shoe prints on the back, he answered casually, "Oh, yeah." And he has one shirt - it's white, my fault, and has actually lasted much longer than expected - that appears to have recently survived a Jackson Pollock art session. Again I asked (Why do I do this? What am I hoping to gain?), "Were you painting at school?" "I guess so." There is amnesia? Were you drugged before the paintbrush was thrust into your hand? Nevermind. What I really want to stop is the bark chips in pants pockets. One, it's a weird habit. And two, I always end up putting these clothes in the dryer right before bedtime so when those pieces of wood work themselves out and start clattering around, I am near sleep. But then I am not. I get grouchy, at pieces of bark chips. Stop the madness.

I will continue to wash everyone's clothing despite these aggravations because I enjoy the satisfaction of clean, warm clothes on hangers and folded into drawers. And maybe I'll get my own show sometime, solving the mysteries of various stains. It would include guest stars of course like, oh I don't know, Mark Wahlberg? I bet he's very, very dirty...