Is that a dust bunny?

I make no attempts to hide the fact that I can get particularly fixated on the cleanliness of my house, specifically the floors.  If the floors need sweeping, vacuuming or scrubbing, good luck getting me to carry on a conversation without a twitchy, wandering eye.  On more than one occasion I’ve been ten minutes late for the morning school commute, not because of a teenage hair catastrophe, a misplaced left shoe or a missing geometry folder, but rather from an irresistible urge to wash my kitchen floor before walking out the door.  Asking me to leave the house while the floor is dappled with the morning’s breakfast milk, toast crumbs, soggy Cheerios and coffee spoon drippings is like asking me to the leave the house braless.  Which, actually isn’t a good comparison because on any given spring or summer morning I really have no problems walking braless down to the mailbox, to my garden or to hang laundry on the clothesline.  It’s a perk (pun wishfully intended) of easy country living and the lack of city ordinances involving blatant disregards for modesty.

But if you spill the juice, crumble the cookie or somehow miss your mouth during one of the many feeding frenzies that occur two minutes before the mad dash to get out the door, don’t expect me to be all blasé and relaxed about leaving the house in a complete state of chewed-up, spat-out and drooled-upon disarray.  I’m going to clear the sink of dirty dishes and, at the very least, wipe down the floors with a wet rag.  And yes, I will be scrubbing on my hands and knees because I will always argue that you can’t effectively see the sticky smudges, dirty bits and specks from a standing position.  And although my husband will ramble on about how the crazy is kicking in again when he’s sees me scrubbing with my face two inches from the floor, I attribute these time-tested cleaning habits to my fine French heritage.  Ask any Acadian woman how she cleans her floors and she’ll tell you the same thing I do; she’ll also hand you slippers and stand there until you put them on.

Bless my kids and their sloppy butts; they’re gradually becoming familiar with what triggers make me go tick, tick, boom and what things don’t even register as a tiny blip on my highly sensitive radar.

But they also seem to think they can fool me.  As if kicking your bits of dropped toast under the refrigerator is a better alternative to bending down, picking them up and depositing them into the garbage. Kiddo, you’re a good soccer player, but if I see you fake kick, hook and reverse in the middle of the kitchen without a ball, you can be sure I’ll be checking under the fridge next time.  And if there was a glob of jam on the floor five seconds ago and now there’s nothing but a giant foot in a gym sock standing there instead, I will know that you’re taking one for the team in hopes that I will opt for early school drop off instead of quick floor wash.  So now, not only will I scrub the jam off the floor, but I will make you change your socks while I babble on about how I already have enough whites to keep white.  I will also ask you why you thought standing on the glob of jam was somehow more suitable than simply wiping it up with a paper towel.  You won’t have a good answer for me and I will glance at the clock and see how much longer until it’s 5:00pm somewhere.

Although it would seem very cliché if I were to also ramble on about what a futile, pointless and uphill battle it is to get my teenagers to keep their bedrooms clean, I’m going to do it anyway because I’ve spent months yanking in frustration at my already thinning hair.  I’ve tried begging, bargaining, grounding and doing it for them all to no avail and I’m tired.  I wonder what a little write-up in the Bangor Daily will do?  Nothing, I’m sure, but it sure feels good to shake my fist in their general direction and yell “If you kids don’t clean your bedrooms I’m going to write about it on the internet!”  To which they will undoubtedly exchange contrived glances of amusement and roll their eyeballs as I walk away feeling all smug and victorious, as if you can ever really win a Clean Your Bedroom battle with teenagers.  No, all you can do is consistently nag them and Mona Lisa smile while pointing to the heap of clothing and junk when they ask you for money.  A desperate need for funds and transportation seems to be a magical cure for an otherwise inability to see a messy bedroom, doesn’t it?  I’m glad I was never like this to my own mother.

In fact, there are many questionable behaviors displayed by my own children that I don’t recall having any part of during my own childhood.  I’m sure of it and beseech my mother to stop Mona Lisa smiling at me as I complain about my messy house.

There’s something so mindless, yet incredibly satisfying about managing a clean, orderly and systematically functioning home.  And as I whistle a happy tune and make those toilet bowls sparkle, I can almost hear the unused brain cells weeping as they climb out of my head, stand on the edges of my earlobes and plunge to their untimely deaths onto my (very clean) floors.

Renée Chalou

About Renée Chalou

Renée Chalou lives and raises her family in Presque Isle, where she owns a fitness center, LiveWell United. Her oldest son is in his second year at UMO, her daughter plans to attend UMPI in the spring and her youngest son is an active, happy 11 year old in 6th grade. From her life experiences as a homeschooling parent, blending a family, and transforming herself from an overweight, side-line mother to a competitive athlete mother and fitness leader in her community, she writes about what she knows: living life well even when it's not perfect. She writes about finding and clinging to the good even when it would be easy to focus on the bad, no matter what challenges life brings. Life in Northern Maine is wonderful, full of adventures and sub-zero temperatures. It's not for everybody and nobody claims it's easy. But it's a good life, it's hers and she'd like to share some of it with you.