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Warning: Magic wands do not come with instructions

"It's so easy," exclaimed the attractive brunette actress, with unearthly white teeth and a French manicure. Like a fairy godmother, she waved the sponge-tipped plastic stick across the tiles and enthusiastically said, "I can clean my shower in seconds without ever touching the grime!"

My husband and I slumped side by side on the sofa, watching television. Knowing my continuous quest for pre-packaged elbow grease, he remarked, "I bet you want one of those."

"Nah," I replied. "It doesn't look like I could scour something really hard with it."

"So? When did you last scrub anything really hard?"

"Ha, ha. But that lady isn't even touching the surface. I think she's casting spells. Maybe you haven't noticed," I said, extending my hand, palm up, performing a Vanna White arm motion, "but it will take more than a few incantations to improve this place."

"I try not to look," he groaned.

"Good. Let's neither of us look, because that takes less effort than even waving a magic wand, and it's free."

My husband probably thinks he hit upon an original scheme, to just ignore the mess. But, I've worn plow-mule blinders since about the time our third child came along. Otherwise, I would lose my mind and drag my family down into despair with me.

Nevertheless, my children, generally unable to see their shoes in the doorway or the towels piled on their bedroom floors, occasionally alert me to unusual phenomena. "Mama," one yelled to me from the den, "is grass supposed to grow in the bird's cage?"

I quipped to my gullible youngster that I had recreated a natural habitat, like the ones found in zoos. Accepting that, he deposited his socks on the coffee table and exited, leaving me alone to inspect the bottom of the cage. "Impressive," I whistled to the startled parakeet, "you've got a miniature lawn sprouting."

I didn't always let things go so easily. In the past, I put forth heroic efforts to keep my house neat, clean, and debris-free. Three years ago, while my kids sat in school daydreaming about summer, I gathered and sorted playthings I couldn't stand to step over anymore and disguised them in three black trash bags.

Putting them in the back of my car, I realized I had to get my kids from school before stopping to make a donation at the local thrift store. I would have succeeded in my plot, except, driving away from the carpool line, I accidentally dippity-dipped into a pothole. A turncoat toy broke into a static splattered, failing-battery rendition of It's a Small World.

My kids interrogated me like the KGB.

Now my housekeeping routine mostly involves sitting at the kitchen table reading relevant articles in women's magazines. One periodical happened to have a brief quiz to help readers classify themselves as organizational divas or queens of clutter.

I knew I had a real problem when I read the following statement and immediately thought to myself, these are all good ideas.

5. You have increased your closet space by:

a) Removing the floor. You're not sure exactly when the renovation transpired, but you haven't seen the boards since 1992.

b) Packing in so much clothing that your wardrobe hangs perfectly in place with or without the rod.

c) Never closing the door, allowing an extra two inches to two feet of storage.

Maybe my husband had a good idea, too, about that shower-scrubber thing. Maybe a magic wand isn't such a bad idea after all; especially if it comes with a fairy godmother who knows how to use it.

Web posted on Thursday, April 26, 2007

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