UPDATE: (by request, messy photos after the jump)
Few things things are more annoying to clean up than styrofoam. I’ll concede that anything emitted from a living creature’s body on a rug is worse, but there is definitely a circle of cleaning hell dedicated just to little staticky balls of weightless sponginess that make me want to scream.
Easily one of the biggest differences between children and adults is realizing the consequences of a mess. I’m sure unrolling all the toilet paper is a blast. It looks like a blast. I have vague memories of it being a blast. But I could never do it at this stage of my life because I’d be too aware the whole time that I was condemning either myself or someone else to cleaning it all up again. Kids don’t think that far ahead, and they freely enjoy the simple bliss that is unwinding something that completely. I get it. But I can’t go back there. I still like a good mess on some level, just not a pointless one. When I’m carving a violin and the floor gets covered in wood chips, I love it. Sweeping up the wood chips is even fun because it’s evidence of progress. But wasting toilet paper? Not enjoyable.
There is no mess my kids find more irresistible than a styrofoam shredding extravaganza. Not mud, not finger paint, not sand, not even the aforementioned toilet paper. When they see a hunk of styrofoam they cannot stop themselves. They pick at it and crumble it in their fingers until it’s nothing but tiny balls that stick to everything. They laugh and smile and throw it about as if it’s snow, and the happier they are the more desperate I feel.
Styrofoam is like the escaped lunatic of the trash world. It moves away from you as you try to snatch it up, and when you do catch it, it won’t leave your hands as you shake them fruitlessly over the garbage can. It finds its own way back out of the trash sometimes and sticks to everything. I actually tried to vacuum a bunch of it up the other night and it RAN AWAY. I had to drop the attachment directly on top of the styrofoam before I could suck it up. (It was a new vacuum that went promptly back to Target the next day because if it can’t help me with styrofoam it can’t keep the job.)
I realize that as far as big problems go, this not only does not make the list, but it doesn’t even rank high enough to sit in the same room as that list, but still…. I think I encounter more styrofoam than the average person so it comes up at a rate that feels intolerable some days. Most of the boxes shipped to me at the violin store are full of peanuts. At least when they are the kind that can be dissolved in water I have a project that keeps the kids entertained at the sink for a good hour or more, but the regular peanuts just wind up everywhere. Those are annoying, but not as bad as the blocks of styrofoam that end up in a million pieces.
I think I hit my stryrofoam limit when there was suddenly so much of it at home. With the new house there has been new furniture to assemble and things shipped to us from near and far, and all of it has come packaged in styrofoam. I tell the kids not to touch any of the packing materials, but the foam blocks call to them with their squeaky siren song, and my children forget any promises they made and crumble the blocks into sticky blizzards. Bits of styrofoam drift into every corner and cervice and peek out at me from behind bookcases and under the banister. It gets on all our clothes and in our hair. It’s worse than glitter (which also never goes away once it’s been set free), because it’s not even pretty. At least spilled glitter twinkles. Styrofoam just finds its way into dust bunny gangs and defiantly loiters around. I appreciate the good job it did in making sure my new furniture arrived undamaged, but I still hate it.
And thus ends my styrofoam rant. I need to go out and get a better vacuum….
Okay, so right after I wrote this post, I was downstairs helping Aden practice violin, and through the glass door to the living room I see Quinn walking by with a crumbly chunk of styrofoam that he is busily shaking all over. (I swear, I’m not even sure where he found it. He must have been digging through the boxes piled up in the backyard that were headed for the dump the next day.) He was covered, there was a trail through the living room into the dining room…. Aden ran ahead of me and came back saying solemnly, “Mom, don’t look in the kitchen. Seriously, don’t look in the kitchen. Or the family room.” The epicenter was the loveseat in front of the TV, and you can see some of what I faced when I walked in, and then what was still under the couch. You can’t see in the pictures how many teeny itty bitty bits there were everywhere, but between the rug, the pillows, the blankets, and the curtains, I had about one full episode of Law and Order’s worth of clean up.
*sigh* —The money for that Dyson vac is sounding not so unreasonable right now.