Ain't No Clean Like A Rage Clean

My friend plopped down on the seat next to me at the restaurant. We were out for a rare Saturday fun-day, and OMG did we both need it.

She took a sip of her Bloody Mary, passed me her olives and began to gab.

"Everyone was pissing me off today. I woke up mad, and it only got worse."

I speared her discarded olives and plopped them into my dirty martini, took a swig and smiled. "I know exactly how that feels. Some days it's like that's their job, right? 'Let's make mom insane'. What did you do about it?"

She smiled, the crafty smile of a mom who is enjoying an afternoon of freedom, a good cocktail and the companionship of a friend. And then she said:

"I cleaned. I started in the kitchen and I cleaned the shit out of that house. And then I called you."

I laughed, dipped a french fry in some ketchup and took a bite.

"Ahhh...yes. The Rage Clean. I know it all too well."

If you know me at all, you know I avoid cleaning as often as possible. I do it, but not with much enthusiasm and usually right before I have friends over. My kids, of course, have followed suit. I know, I know, I have been a poor role model for them, I should enforce a cleaning schedule and assign them specific cleaning tasks. But I haven't. I coddled them like injured birds after the divorce, and hooo boy has that come back to bite me in the ass. Bite me in the ass AND leave dirty dishes in the living room. That's not the focus of today's discussion, though. We're talking about a very specific kind of cleaning, one that's different from your run-of-the-mill housekeeping.

THE RAGE CLEAN. Cleaning when angry. As I stated above, I loathe cleaning. But there's something about being mad that gets me all hot and bothered. As my temper flares, messes that need conquering almost glow with a heavenly aura in front of me. The dishwasher gets emptied with loud purposefulness. Dust is sprayed and wiped with forceful intent. Shoes are deposited by the front door with angry aplomb. Baseboards are scrubbed, the Swiffer gets abused and my God the toilets...those mother effers GLEAM when Angry Jenny is done with them.

And the wonder of it all is, that when I'm done cleaning, I'm also done being mad. Win/win.

And yes, I can hear some of you whispering, "You should get mad more often, Jenny!" 

Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) I don't get mad a lot. Maybe I should keep a pile of things that need dusting or folding in the car, because that tends to be the place I rage most often.

But back to the restaurant, the moms and the cocktails. We cackled mightily about the phenom known as Rage Cleaning. We shared what sets us off most often (for both of us: the kids not helping as much as they should and coming home to a messy house after a long, tiring day of work. For her: her husband not helping as much as he should). We wondered if we were alone in our Rage Cleaning...and then two of our friends showed up.

The first friend was another mom, and YES BY GOD she knew all about the angry cleaning. She regaled us with tales of her terrified children running ahead of her, picking up toys and clothes and oh the humanity, the SOCKS. Seems that the socks are the trigger for her. And I understand that one. I find socks everywhere: balled up in the couch, shoved under the vanity in the bathroom, lounging very casually on the stairs leading down to the mancave. Very rarely do I find them in pairs. Yes, socks are rage inducers.

Our second friend, though...surprised us.

He is young. Like, in his 20's young. And single.

Here's the kicker: he not only knew all about Rage Cleaning...he had JUST DONE SOME THAT MORNING. He told us about his roommates and their utter inability to clean up after themselves. And so, he Rage Cleaned the kitchen in his apartment.

Rage Cleaning transcends genders, and age and marital status. It affects married people, divorced people, single people.

It even happens in the movies! I watched "American Hustle" the other night, and this scene made me laugh out loud. I thought about my rage cleaning homies and reminded myself to crank some 70's tunes during my next episode of angry dusting:

JLaw rocked those yellow rubber gloves, yes?

How about you? Have you ever Rage Cleaned? Please share your stories. It helps to know we're not alone.


Bad Mom Thoughts (Just Write)

I had a really un-momlike thought in the car today.

On my break, headed towards Old Navy to buy a pair of Super Skinny jeans (not for me! For my 13 year old son, silly), driving along the highway and doing that random-thought thing that happens. You know, when you're focused on the road and where you're going and what you have to get done when you get there and everything else you have to do after that...those scenarios that play through your mind. Sometimes I finish arguments during these drives, sometimes I pretend I'm famous and give interviews (shut up! It's fun. Try it sometime).

Today, though...today was different.

Today I thought about what life would be like if I didn't have kids. And I don't mean just a fleeting thing, a "gah can you imagine how much easier things would be" sort of thing. I think a lot of moms, if pressed and mayhap plied with a cocktail, would admit to sometimes thinking about life without children. But mom guilt and love for our progeny quickly smother such evil thoughts.

Not today. Today I spent the majority of my car ride fantasizing (YES I said fantasizing because I thought of this much like I think about winning the lottery or sleeping with Louis CK) about a child-free life.

I thought about where I might be working, what kind of home I'd have and yes I thought about what my body would look like if it hadn't produced and fed four human beings in six years. I thought about education (mine) and money (again, mine) and traveling and OH MY GOD what it would be like to not live and breathe motherhood every second of every day.

I thought about what it would be like to not worry about things like lunch money and grades and shady friends and judgy adults and financial aid forms and junk food and mother effing cell phone bills.

I thought about clean bathrooms and guest bedrooms and what it would be like to have to save up dirty clothes to get a full load. What it would be like to always know where the freaking remotes are and to live the kind of life where you don't open the fridge and find a milk carton with half a tablespoon of milk left in it.

All of these thoughts happened. All of them paraded through my cranium as the gray road was consumed in front of me and the gray skies gloomed above me. Big deal, right? Who doesn't think about this kind of stuff every once in a while, right?

But here's the kicker:

This time, I didn't feel bad. There was zero guilt for allowing myself to pretend for just a moment, for just a drive's worth of time. I didn't picture my children's faces and curse myself for being such an ungrateful heathen.

In fact, I was envious. Jealous of this Jenny in my mind, this Me living in Bizarro world, childless and flat-bellied and perched upon a toilet not decorated with amber splotches of dried pee. I even felt a little sad, not because I'd had these awful thoughts but because I'd never know what life would have been like if I'd chosen what was behind Door B instead of pushing Door A open without a moment's hesitation.

But this is what I did: I bought the jeans for William, and then I stopped at Trader Joe's for some Orange Chicken. Because my kids love it and dinner isn't going to make itself, right?

I forgave myself for having the kid-free fantasies and also for not feeling bad about having them.

I decided that as nice as it would be to have all of that stuff I thought about on my drive to Old Navy, I'm certain that choosing to have kids was the right choice for me.

And my children would probably agree.


This post is my first attempt at free writing in conjunction with my friend Heather and her blog The Extraordinary Ordinary. Do you blog? Have a stab at it. Write free and then link up at Heather's blog.


Three Moms Drive Into The School Parking Lot.....

It was one of those mornings.

My level of smug has been pretty high this week, listening to the parents at my preschool and other friends of mine kvetch about the havoc that Daylight Savings Time has wreaked upon their lives. The view from my pedestal was lovely. Teenagers? Hah. We are so not affected by a measly hour's difference, people.

I got this.

Yeah. Until I realized how much I don't got this. It hit me this morning, right about the same time I hit the snooze on my alarm for the third time. As I slipped my sleeping mask back in place and dug my feet deeper under the dog for warmth, it occurred to me that I hadn't jumped out of bed with my usual "TIME TO MILK THE COWS" fervor. I was getting up later and later, finding it increasingly difficult to leave the cozy clutch of my bed in order to begin waking the kids for school.

And the kids. They, too, have been harder to rouse. Molly, who usually gets herself up and ready without any intervention, lies motionless in her bed as her phone chimes away next to her head. Henry, who is usually the easiest to wake, now requires more than the usual flick of the lights and a "Time to get up!" cheer. And we won't discuss the 13 year old, who clings to sleep like a Kardashian does to attention.

So this morning was rough. I've been given the okay to come into work a bit later, in order to make up for some overtime, and decided that I'd drive the kids to school. This way, we could relax a tiny bit, not be so rushed. Maybe even sit down to eat a bagel.

As if.

Oh, it was less rushed, at first. And yes, it was even a bit relaxing. William was the first out to the car, Molly and I following him out to the garage. I warmed up the car and we waited for Henry.

And waited.

"What the hell?" exclaimed Mother of the Year. I looked back at Molly and asked her "Where's Henry?". I don't know why I assumed she'd know. It just seemed logical. She looked at me in the rearview mirror and said "How should I know?".

Then, Henry's 6'3" frame appeared in the doorway that connects the house to the garage.

Now, Henry is the child who earned the moniker "Mr. Furious" before he reached the ripe old age of 3. His anger management issues were legendary, so much so that the game "Chutes and Ladders" was banned in our household, permanently, after we discovered that his biggest trigger was losing. Losing a game, losing a race, losing a shoe or a cup or the dash to the good swing in the backyard. Had I been a better parent, I'd have done more to assuage his obvious temper issues, but in my mind removing the triggers was easier than dismantling the gun, so to speak. I have a few regrets in life, and yes, that's one of them.

His temper has subsided, quite a bit, over the past few years.He's 16 now and at times is my favorite child. I credit maturity, no more video games and my much-improved parenting. But when it does show up? Oh, it's ON. On like Donkey Kong, suckers.

The giant manchild in the doorway was gesticulating wildly. "Oh no" William said. "He's mad." I opened my window and shouted out, "Come on, we're going to be late!" because our previously relaxed and effortless morning was quickly becoming yet another race against the clock. He screamed back at me, "I CAN'T FIND MY FREAKING PHONE!". His voice cracked and he kicked the doorjamb.

For the sake of brevity, I'll sum up the next 7 minutes: Scream. Swear. Kick garbage can. Push chair over. Mom chanting to herself, "don't engage, don't engage, don't engage". Couch cushions EVERYWHERE. And finally, phone found.

I made a mental note to talk to someone about these rare-but-whackadoo outbursts and then we drove to school. Miraculously, the kids would all be on time and if I hustled, I'd be able to get home, put a bra on, and head to work. Luckily my shower from the day before hadn't expired.

The tension began lifting. Big kids dropped off at the high school first, and then it was on to the junior high to deposit William. Now, I've written about my experiences at the junior high parent drop off before, so I won't go into much detail. But the place is a cluster-eff even under the best circumstances. William and I had discussed his game plan for dealing with an assignment that seems to have disappeared into cyberspace, we exchanged our "I love you's" and "See ya laters". He disembarked and that was that.

But the two cars in front of me weren't budging. I waited, thinking surely they'd go, but no...no dice. So, I did what I had to do: I pulled out, and began driving past them, into the exit lane.

That's when I met Mom #1. She was in a silver GMC Acadia and we found ourselves side by side, trying to exit. I smiled at her, the "hey I know I'm doing an asshole move here, please, go ahead! My bad!". Our eyes met, and she smiled back at me, and gave a little friendly "thank you!" wave. Or maybe it was more of a "thank you for acknowledging your assholeness! Have a great day!'. But whatever. I found myself smiling genuinely, glad to have met up with a friendly person there in one of the most unholy circles of Hell.

"Gee I like nice people" I thought to myself. And then, HOOOOOOOONNNNKKKKK. My blissful kumbaya moment was shattered by the honking next to me.

Enter Mom #2. She was in her maroon Honda Pilot. I looked over, again with my "Yep! Guilty as charged! Please go ahead! Have a nice day" look but this time, there was no smile in return.

Mom #2's eyes narrowed. Her lips were pursed and she shook her head at me. I think her nose crinkled up a bit. She gunned it and pulled ahead, and I could see her gesturing to me. She wasn't flashing the peace sign.

I drove behind her for almost a mile after that. As I passed her at a stoplight, I glanced in her car. She glared back at me and again shook her head.

Here's the point in the story where I could fold my arms, jut out a hip and go off on this woman. I could go all "Open Letter Blog Post" on her ala' Matt Walsh or any other blogger who has made vilifying perfect strangers online a new fangled art form. I could make presumptions about the woman in the Honda Pilot. I could assume many things about her: she's a rude person. A bitch. A cold hearted shrew who eats the souls of babies for breakfast and washes them down with kitten's tears and puppy breath. I could go into a rant about how angry people are these days, and how she made me feel bad and how I hoped she would spill her coffee later or maybe get her period and not have any tampons in her purse and have to suffer the burn of wadding up toilet paper in her underpants until she got home.

But that's not what I'm going to do. Instead, I'm thanking her. I'm thanking both of those moms from the parking lot. Even in my agitated, rushed state of mind, I learned something this morning.

Mom #1, the Acadia mom? She taught me the value of a smile. A wave. She reminded me that even the people making asshole moves in the parking lot are deserving of some grace now and then. Her wave was like a blessing, actually, and it took away some of the sting of a shitty morning.

Mom #2, the Pilot mom? She taught me the power of a look. Her obvious disapproval of me, of my driving, of my assholery...for whatever reason, it affected me. It might have been due to the polarity of her reaction compared to the first mom. Or perhaps it was my nerves, still raw from dealing with Hurricane Henry earlier. Whatever the reason, when she gave me that look, I decided to not get mad in return. I didn't get defensive. Instead, I wondered if she, too, had just been through a morning like mine. Maybe she was on her way to a job she can't stand. Maybe she's dealing with an ailing parent. Maybe she's scared because her mammogram results weren't normal and she needs to go back.

Or, maybe she just wasn't in the mood to put up with yet another a-hole parent not following the flow of things in the school parking lot that day. God knows I've been less-than gracious in that situation before.

I cut her some slack, the same kind of slack Mom #1 had cut me.

It ended up being a good morning, after all. Thanks to the moms in the school parking lot.

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