One Tough Cookie

Look, ma! No hands!
Look, ma! No hands!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I could no longer live with our basement. We had it finished eight years ago when the boys were small, and our big dream was to get the train table out of our family room. At the time, we had no practical idea about what the space would be used for other than glorified, out-of-sight toy storage and therefore we had the contractor paint the whole space a muted and incredibly boring white, reasoning that white would keep the area bright. Over time and with much abuse by boys, the white walls became foul. For years, I’ve avoided the basement altogether, only occasionally going down there to pick up trash, throw out broken toys, and vacuum up dead spiders. That was all I could handle.

Then I decided it was time to face my fears. The boys are growing up. The train table is gone. It was time for the basement to be a livable space for all of us. I needed to paint. We had to begin by cleaning the pit. I dragged the boys downstairs with me and my black, yard-size, plastic trash bags. We got to work. It was bad. Now, I’ve never wanted to be the Clean Police. I prefer to pick other battles with my sons. And I believe a boy should have someplace that isn’t subject to relentless, maternal scrutiny. (Besides, like a drill sergeant who loves surprise inspections, I prefer scrutiny on random occasions when it is unexpected.) As we continued around the room, though, I did voice my concern about their slovenliness. They reminded me that they do pick up when I ask them. I suggested that perhaps they can be more proactive about taking responsibility for the space when I don’t ask. Shockingly radical idea, I know.

I requested help moving the futon away from the wall. It had been in a bed position since Luke’s sleepover birthday party at the end of May. No. I had not gone down there since the party. I left the clean up to them. They’re old enough to handle that, right? Then summer hit and life got chaotic. We were training for the Inca Trail, and the state of our hideous basement was nowhere in the vicinity of my mind. Don’t judge. As we pulled the futon bed away from the wall, I saw something stuck there. I took one step closer to investigate and realized it was half of a chocolate chip cookie. A chocolate chip cookie. Stuck to the wall. For how long, I was not sure. Oddly enough, my first thought was not, “I am the world’s worst housekeeper.” Instead it was, “How is it sticking there?” I was concerned with the physics of the situation. I actually wondered if it had frosting or something that had adhered it to the wall. My next thought was that it was reasonably disgusting that a cookie stuck to the wall for who knows how long had no mold on it whatsoever. My children had ingested those. I shuddered at what a horrible person I am for feeding that “food” to my offspring. Certainly that should qualify as child abuse.

As I stood there with my mouth agape, staring incredulously at that stupid cookie, the boys started doing the math.

“When did we have cookies down here?” Luke asked.

“I don’t know. You know you’re not supposed to bring food down here,” I answered. “When was the last time I bought cookies?” I puzzled. “I never buy cookies.”

Joe, whose 13-year-old mind can’t remember to come home wearing two shoes, replied,”I think it was Luke’s birthday party.”

Now I started doing the math. Luke’s 11th birthday party was on May 23rd. Oh holy hell.

“That cookie has been on the wall for over three months!” I gasped. “You guys!”

“We didn’t know it was there,” came the rejoinder.

“Well…you should have,” I replied, peeling its overly preserved remains from the wall. “Look,” I said as I showed the cookie to them. “It still looks edible. Want a bite?”

They declined. Later on, though, curiously enough, both kids asked if we could get cookies for dessert.

Sometimes I think back to the days before I had kids, days when I never would have found a half of a cookie stuck to my wall. I think about those days, when my house was always clean and there were no random, inexplicable scuff marks high on the walls and no Legos in my vacuum canister. There were days when I was not afraid to enter any room in my house for fear of what terror might lurk pressed up against the wall behind a piece of furniture. Once upon a time, my house looked good enough for company…all the time. Then I had boys, and my house went to the dogs. Funny thing is it has never felt more like home than it does now. If you come over and find something stuck to the walls, try not to notice it. We’re busy living here.

Want Something Cleaned? Pee On It

It’s clean and I didn’t have to do it!

Last night, our son Luke had a friend spend the night. His friend slept in the top bunk of the bed where Joe usually sleeps. Joe was displaced, so he slept on an air mattress in our room. This morning before sunrise, Joe woke up to use the bathroom. As soon as he was finished, Steve went to use the bathroom. The toilet flushed, the light turned on, and all hell broke loose.

“JOE!” Steve yelled with disgust.

“What, Dad?”

“There is pee everywhere in here. You have GOT to look where you’re peeing,” he said.

“It was dark,” Joe replied calmly.

“Well, then, TURN ON A LIGHT! Seriously! The floor is wet. There’s a puddle here. You are going to clean this mess up,” Steve barked.

“I didn’t mean to,” Joe complained.

“Yeah, hon. He didn’t mean to,” I said, hoping to diffuse Steve’s annoyance. It didn’t work.

“You should see the mess he made. Joe…did you get any pee in the toilet? Any at all?”

“I’ll clean it up, Dad,” Joe said as he grabbed some paper towels.

“We need more than paper towels, Joe. We need rags.”

Joe came in and did a little mopping up with paper towels while Steve railed on about the sheer amount of urine covering our bathroom floor. Joe apologized and sneaked out when he felt the coast was clear. I couldn’t blame him. This pee mess had really gotten to Steve. I waited for things to calm down, then I went to inspect. Steve was on his hands and knees with disinfectant and he was mopping the floor and wiping the walls. Our bathroom floor was spotless. (Not that I would eat off it or anything.)

“It was dark. How did you know he’d peed everywhere?” I asked.

“Because when I stood up I realized my butt was wet,” he replied, “and I knew that was not right so I flipped the light on.”

I muffled a giggle. At least now I could understand the vehemence of his response. As the only female in our house, maybe I’m just used to it. I don’t sit on a toilet seat here, or anywhere else for that matter, without expecting it first. Sit on someone else’s pee once, shame on you. Sit on someone else’s pee twice? Well, I’m just not that clueless. I’m used to messes. I own several pairs of yellow rubber gloves because of them. I also make my sons clean their own toilet. I won’t even touch that thing. And, you could not pay me to use the toilet in their bathroom. Donald Trump couldn’t even give me $5 million for my favorite charity to do it. Still, the mess was hearty enough to encourage Steve to clean our toilet and mop up the bathroom floor.

In the 10 years we’ve lived in this home, Steve has cleaned our bathroom floor once, maybe twice. (He says more, but I find that highly unlikely because I’ve never actually witnessed such an act and I’m home a lot.) As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Steve is wonderful about cleaning our stove, which I refuse to do because it’s one of those gas contraptions that take forever to clean. He’s also amazing at deep cleaning totally random, out-of-the-way spots in our home right before we have guests over. He has been verbally abused by me via blog twice for cleaning the laundry room and the cabinet under the kitchen sink just before company arrived…because we all know the first place house guests snoop is under the kitchen sink. It turns out that I am actually grateful to Joe for peeing all over our bathroom in his still-half-asleep, 11-year-old boy way. His pee mishap has left me with a shiny clean bathroom floor that I didn’t have to touch. Heck…if I had known that Steve would become so impassioned about cleaning after a little yellow accident, I never would have potty trained our boys. Imagine how clean my house could be!


Don’t Give Me Your Bull Or You’ll See My Horns

Check out the look on his face. Priceless.

Sometimes I think my children don’t know me at all. You would think, given the extraordinary amount of time we spend together, that they would know me quite well. Apparently not. This morning, we were getting ready to leave our mountain house. Because it is literally our home-away-from-home, when we leave it, we need to clean it first. We don’t have a cleaning service because we are the cleaning service. So, as hubby and I were working on getting the place cleaned up, I asked my oldest son if he would kindly take the recycling out to the bin. He looked at me with attitude.

“What are you going to do?” was what he asked with an unbridled audacity I have not yet seen in his young (and now potentially short) life.

“Excuse me?” I replied with a glare.

“I just mean while I’m doing this what are you going to be doing?” he stupidly repeated.

“Well…I was going downstairs to clean. But now, you will be cleaning while I watch.”

He stared at me with all the pre-teen annoyance he could muster. Unabated, I dragged his sorry butt down the stairs and proceeded to direct him while he cleaned our bathroom, dusted our rooms, and vacuumed our floors. All the while, I just kept muttering quietly to myself in utter incredulity. Had this stupid child actually implied that he works harder than I do? Had he lost his frigging mind? I suppose I just sit around while he slaves the day away. I wanted to smack him. Instead, I pointed out helpful things so he could do the job more effectively.

“When you dust you need to clear off the surface first. Then you wipe the entire surface and replace the items.”

He rolled his eyes. I ignored. He whined. I pointed out his next task. Eventually the house was clean, although not as quickly as it would have been if I had done it without my little helper. I think Joe might have figured out that when I ask him to do something his best course of action is simply to do it without lip. I learned something today too. My kids do not do nearly enough housecleaning.