You're thinking, put down that spray bottle, Suburban. Nobody cleans the house for a kid home for spring break.
But I'm not doing it for him.
I know as well as you do that he has probably already invited a dozen other 19-year-old boys to come over and spill Chipotle all over the furniture in the basement.
I'm doing it to send a message. And that message is this: Things are different.
We eat from plates now. Sometimes even in the kitchen. Dirty laundry goes IN the laundry basket. It's something new we're trying. Clean laundry goes somewhere else. We're still working on it. But you probably have noticed that entire sections of floor are almost shoe free. And the kitchen countertops? We know now that we have them.
See how we live now?
It's not 100 percent true. Or any percent, if you want to get all technical. But my theory is this: We have an opportunity to reset the bar as to what constitutes an acceptable level of household disorder. It's a fresh start. Fresh-ish.
Because it's harder to spill the contents of an overstuffed burrito onto a floor that has been freshly vacuumed. And no one wants to be the first to put a half-eaten plate of food onto a freshly-cleaned kitchen counter. A teenager who walks into a house where he can see his reflection in every solid surface is going to hesitate before he dumps the unwashed contents of his suitcase onto the floor. [EDITOR'S NOTE: We have since learned that this is actually not true.]
Before you know it, a couch that doesn't crunch when you sit on it will start to seem normal. We lived like that once. I'm pretty sure. It's possible I am thinking of some other family.
For more inspiration in a spray bottle, check out SK on Queen Latifah today.
I put my car in reverse and shoot all the way out to the road, navigating the path between the ice mountains in one clean swoop, much like an Olympic skier. I had a really good run yesterday too, but today, I can picture myself on the podium.
I am high-fiving myself for my Olympic caliber driving-in-reverse skill when Mr. Kamikaze gestures toward the glaciers at the mouth of the driveway.
"I widened it for you," he says. "Did you think you were getting better?"
yeah, I did.
Photo: The freshly-shoveled driveway as Valentine's Day tribute.
At some point today, in between items 9 and 73 on my to-do list, I am planning to dig a few Halloween decorations out of the basement closet and throw them onto the front steps in a slapdash, last-minute attempt at seasonal decor. For the children.
If history teaches us anything, it is that - all profane protestations to the contrary - I will be going to the mall today, despite the fact that this is unreasonable, ridiculous and not particularly relevant to her costume theme.
But apparently, there is no other way to make a cat costume work. I know this now because the look she gave me when I suggested that any of the 45 pairs of black leggings she already owns could serve the same purpose - made it clear that a skater skirt is the difference between a cat costume that works and a cat costume fail.
Then, if I manage to accomplish nothing else, I will dig my skeleton hand wine goblets out of the cobweb covered boxes and pour myself a glass of something cheap and red. I may also pull out the remnants of the very tiny, very adorable cat costumes the children wore so many years ago and get a little nostalgic over a giant pile of Twizzlers.
It is a very sorry excuse for a holiday effort and I would apologize, but I know that you are only here for the cats.
Photo: My neighbor has a giant fucking cat.
from the History has Taught us Nothing archives: Tinkerbelle is so last week
from the costume bin: Hallowhat?
In a perfect world, boy bands would incorporate SAT vocabulary into their song lyrics...
Don't know what for
You're being scrutinized when you walk through the door
On you, make-up would be superfluous
Being the way that you are is exemplary
Everyone else in the room can see it lucidly
Everyone else but you
Baby, it's unequivocal
The way that you flip your hair destroys my equanimity
But when you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell
You don't recognize your own aesthetic
If only you were clairvoyant
You'd understand why I want you so zealously
Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe
You don't know
You don't know you're provocative
Which strikes me as fortuitous
So c-come on
Don't be obstinate
I'm going to elucidate it in a song
I don't know why
You're being diffident
And suppress your reaction when I look in your eye, eye, eyes.
from the Boy Band archives: All Roads lead to One Direction
People are always asking me, "Suburban, how do you do it?"
Because from the outside, it does not really seem possible to eat cheese and crackers at your desk while applying a top coat to your manicure. And I won't lie to you: there are crumbs stuck to a couple of my nails.
But the point is, I'm not going to stop multitasking just because it's messy. Life is messy. So sure, while I did spend a few minutes indulging in workspace envy over the Tumblr images of Where Bloggers Blog, I have to wonder: do people really get anything done in those tidy, color-coordinated Martha Stewart-esque workspaces? Also, where the fuck are my scissors?
I need to clip this recipe for lobster pasta with yellow tomatoes and basil out of the newspaper before I realize I am never, ever going to make lobster pasta with yellow tomatoes and basil.
Photo: Where bloggers do their nails.
Oh god. You know that woman who googles "Pop-Tarts" late at night and then hits the "send" button on two 36-count boxes of strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts for delivery to a dorm room 2,015.3 miles away? And then googles "dorm room toaster" to see if there is something small and safe that can be used to toast strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts in a dorm room? Because those are his favorite? And then googles "are toasters allowed in college dorms?" Because what if they're not? And then worries, will he even eat 72 strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts if he can't toast them?
If I am not careful, I could turn into that woman.
Photo: Little Ernie gets a taste of dorm life.
Another Mother's Day is almost here. Go ahead, pretend to care. We see right through your shabby little arts and crafts efforts. Who do you think is going to have to vacuum all that glitter spilling out from your sticky tribute? Who is in charge at that preschool anyway? Just kidding. You're adorable.
Whatever, middle schoolers. You can't buy us off with some cheap chocolate your dad bought for you at the last minute just because you can't drive and you don't have any money. You think we don't know what you tweet about us? Well, we don't actually. We are too busy trying to get that smell out of your bedroom.
Just kidding. We know you care.
OMG high schoolers! You are going to clean the house for us? That is so sweet, even if you are the ones who made it such a mess in the first place. There is nothing as satisfying as the smell of cleaning products and burnt toast on a Sunday morning. Unless it is the smell of cleaning products and burnt toast accompanied by the sounds of a protracted argument over who has to do the vacuuming. Why should you have to do it anyway? It's not like you are going to do a good job. You can't even make toast. Who is going to eat that?
Seriously though, keep it simple. Last year's 11-course champagne brunch was lovely, but a little over the top.
I am only joking. It really is the thought that counts. I am not sure whose mom said it first, but it is just as true today as it was then, or whenever.
I know. I recently led you to believe that thumbtacks were the way to go. And I'm not saying they don't have a point.
It's just that my current system (binders, thumbtacks, Paris-themed sticky notes, profanity) does not seem up to the job lately. I don't know exactly how Sheryl Sandberg does it, but around here there is way too much leaning in. Don't you people have anywhere else you could be leaning?
So when I find myself copying 35 pages of tax returns at 6 a.m. because of a scholarship application Boy Esq. needed to file five minutes ago, I begin to wonder - and not for the first time - what the fuck is wrong with my
Also, what happened to the extra copies I assembled a month ago and filed in a blue folder marked "To be Lost Immediately"?
That is when I realize I should have taped the extra copies to the desk, along with my scissors, my favorite pens, my Notes-to-Self. That way, when I get up in the morning at zero-dark-thirty, everything will be exactly where I left it just before I went to bed two hours earlier.
As an authority on organized living, I feel a responsibility to clear up some recent misconceptions regarding binders.
I love binders. That doesn't make me some kind of 1950s throwback who panders to people who believe Planned Parenthood, Big Bird and gay people are aligned in a plot to destroy America. Big Bird just doesn't strike me as having the kind of critical thinking skills to pull something like that off.
The point is, binders play a key role in my attempt to keep the demands of career, household, parenting and delusional thinking organized and distinct. Because there's only so much a thumbtack can hold.
If there is a better way to juggle the requirements of making a living in the language-based arts while pursuing your dreams of getting the teenagers out of the house, I don't know what it is.
Paper clips, maybe?
Pretty much everything. Along with stuff in every other color.
It's on the counters, the floors, the staircase, the beds. It's stuffed into the bookshelves and under the couch cushions. It's piling up around the laundry baskets. It's spilling out of the trash bag.
We are living under conditions often described as "Holy crap, who lives like this?"
Or "sloth" for short.
Some of us may have taken on too many projects at the same time. Others are expected to take a key supporting role in everybody else's projects as well.
And of course, by "some of us" I mean myself. By "others," I am referring to myself again. By "supporting role," I mean, "Can't anybody around here do a single thing for themselves? Also: prep work, inspiration, execution, fact-checking, copyediting, scheduling, transportation and what we loosely refer to as "meal planning." Very loosely.
And sure, thumbtacks are a big part of making it work. But a key drawback to the many organizational systems that I have devised over the years is that they contribute to the sense that any of this is actually possible.
Related: Like you have a better system
I believe that if you have never been tempted to dance to “Pumping Up the Party” by Hannah Montana, you are already a little bit dead inside.
I believe if coffee were declared illegal, a cartel of PTA moms would be powerful enough to rival the Colombian drug lords within six months.
I believe teenage girls are secretly running the world. Otherwise, the success of Twitter makes no sense.
I believe bikini waxing gives me the right to think of myself as brave.
I have trouble accepting the idea that James Bond could actually drive like that without getting someone killed, but I do believe it is possible that Daniel Craig and I could run into each other somewhere, in an elevator maybe, or an airport, where we would bond over a shared passion for olives and wordplay and exchange phone numbers.
I believe my husband would be okay with this.
I believe Post-it Notes are invisible to children.
I believe my teenage son secretly does know which day the garbage goes out.
I believe that scrubbing toothpaste off the sink while blow-drying my hair gives me the right to think of myself as an effective multitasker, even if I end up with toothpaste in my hair.
I believe I am the kind of woman who sports a tattoo in some sexy location. I just don’t think I need a tattoo to prove it.
I believe everybody is sanctimonious about something and that recognizing this fact makes me a better human being than most people.
I believe that my failure to develop a working system of organized family life is the result of deliberate sabotage and not a flaw in my system of charts, thumbtacks, hooks, storage containers and Post-it Notes.
I am having the kind of week for which nothing less than being kidnapped by a handsome pirate and spirited away for an old-fashioned tumble belowdecks could possibly rehabilitate.
Applicants must subscribe to 21st century notions of grooming, hygiene and foreplay and hold firm opinions on the appalling underrepresentation of women at the top of America's biggest corporations.
Also, there should be clean sheets belowdecks.
Do not try to discourage me with talk of how it has Never Been Done.
I know I am in "uncharted waters." Please. I practically wrote the book on Organization Systems that Seem Promising, But Only Serve to Transfer Disorganization from One Place to Another.
Sadly, I forgot to copyright that one.
And yes, I recognize that my track record in matters of organization has been, let's say "spotty."
But this time is different, I swear! No more bins, no more hooks, no more sorting hats.
The answer is: thumbtacks.
Trust me. This time I'm really on to "something."
All I have to do to prove it works is: revise my novel, navigate an impenetrable collection of college and scholarship applications, launch a completely new website, establish myself as the new face of erotic literature and adult figure skating and find a full-time job that will allow my family to continue living indoors.
It sounds overwhelming until you begin adhering stick-on corkboard to every surface of your work area. From there, it's just a matter of acquiring a collection of thumbtacks, which are available in a wide array of colors and styles.
And voila! You are
speaking French for no reason! surrounded by the exact same to-do list as before except now it has been impaled on tiny plastic-coated spikes.
Which I believe will make all the difference.
Photo: Forget what I said about Paris-themed sticky notes.