Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Aunt Mary and the Righteous Sniff

Recently, my Aunt Mary came to visit.  Now, my Aunt Mary is ten kinds of awesome and you know that.  She was very fun to hang out with and extremely helpful around the house.  And also understanding, because my house is not clean.  I don't even shoot for clean anymore.  I shoot for not embarrassing.  

And since even that fails most of the time, I just try and make sure my friends have really low expectations where my house is concerned.  That was working out pretty well for me, until Aunt Mary came to visit.  Now I have been shamed into trying harder.  Here's what happened.

Right after she arrived, we were sitting around the table eating lunch and giggling and she started telling me about what it was like when her mom would come over to her house.  No matter how clean Aunt Mary's house was, it was never clean enough.  She would spend hours tidying and mopping and scrubbing and getting my cousins to scurry around helping her.  And it was always still a little too dirty.  Her mom would walk in the front door, look around, give a righteous sniff of disapproval and shake her head slowly as if to say "Well, I can see you didn't bother to clean on my account..."

I know the feeling. Except I barely even try anymore. It must be very disheartening to make the effort and still fall short.  Part of the reason I don't try very often (other than the TOTAL, SOUL-SUCKING FUTILITY) is because I usually get my B on when I'm in a cleaning frenzy.  Everyone in my house, while happy to have clean bathrooms, is not so happy to deal with the Mean Mommy Voice that comes with sparkling toilets.  And even on the rare occasions when my house is "clean", it's never grandma clean.

You see, in Aunt Mary's world there are two kinds of clean: regular clean and grandma clean.

"Regular clean" is the kind of cleaning my sorry house receives maybe twice a year, usually right before we have visitors.  Or host Thanksgiving.  Or my husband's boss comes to dinner.  But that's how clean her house is every day.

"Grandma clean" represents a completely whackadoodle, OCD level of hygenic perfection that no sane person can possibly achieve.  No offense to Aunt Mary's mother.  One of the examples I was given included scrubbing the inside of the hood over her stove once a week so that it always remained white glove spotless.  I was like: "Whuck?  You're supposed to clean that?  I had no idea..."

Aunt Mary didn't look surprised when I said that. 

But Aunt Mary is not judgmental.  She's the sort of person who falls asleep on park benches and she's fine with that.  She's also a very useful and helpful kind of lady.  She asked me if I would get offended if she cleaned some things while visiting my house and I was like: "HELL NO. Go on with your bad self." 

So now the glass in my light fixtures is polished.  Again, I don't think that was ever on my radar.  I mean, I'm just trying to keep the carpet from being crunchy.  Polishing things is not on my list.  And my kitchen floor is mopped and the the floorboards have been scrubbed.  Also, I caught her teaching Thumbelina to wipe down walls with hot water and clean rags. 

Wow.  I know.  I have clean rags?

Actually, she bought them for me at Target but that's beside the point.  Aunt Mary never made me feel bad about it because she kept telling me that when she visited people with small kids, she didn't want to make them feel like they had to bend over backwards to make the house perfect.  It was more fun just to hang out and play.  And if she got bored, maybe she'd clean something.  And I believed her and I was so relieved because I tried to clean up for her, honestly I did.  But it was just such a cluster of Cheerios clinging to everything and trash not being taken out and random pairs of Spiderman underpants of questionable vintage sticking out from under the couch that it wasn't possible.  It was gross.

God bless her.  She didn't seem to care.  She just knitted mittens and colored with the kids and cracked jokes and occasionally cleaned something.

On the last day she was here, we were out running errands and stopped for gas.  She looked up and saw a sign and said, "I bet your van wishes that sign was in front of you all the time!"  Here's the sign:

I was shocked and said: "Aunt Mary, are you saying my car wants to be clean?  Did you just give my van the righteous sniff.  OH. MY. GAWD. You totally just righteous sniffed me."

She looked a little sorry and was like: "Well, the house I understand...  But this?  This is pretty bad."

And then she and all three of my kids laughed their heads off at me while making sniffing sounds.  And I made the made the mistake of telling Kate about it later and she was like: "You sort of deserve the righteous sniff.  The Big White Tampon is vile.  The last time I was in there I accidentally sat on an old grape juice box and I'm pretty sure wine came out."


That's true.  And the old Ford Tampon smells a lot worse in heat of the summer.  Wait, that was gross wasn't it?  I don't even care.  I've officially hit rock bottom.  I'm starting a 12 step program for filthy van owners called "Victims of the Righteous Sniff".

"Hi. My name is Lydia and my van is disgusting and I have to go clean it now". 

All together now...

"Hi Lydia."

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010


  1. Hi Lydia. OMMYSWEETMAUDE that is the most awesome ever! Can Aunt Mary come stay with me and Boo Boo? Sair is off to college she can have her own room WITH a television!

  2. I SO get my B' on when the house has to be done, and it's the whole damn house, not like we can keep one frickin room clean...and my sweathogs have some notion that I make them clean all the time... hello?? duh? if that were the case, would we be cleaning crusted jello off the walls...in the bathroom? How did that happen? God, I really hope that is jello. gross.

  3. Studies are actually showing that we NEED to be exposed to *gasp* germs!! Kids in sterile societies are increasingly developing allergies; in fact, I just read an article that it seems like regular exposure to massive amounts of poop (like on farms or when my son chows down on blueberries) is actually GOOD for the immune system. I don't let it bother me anymore when my mother makes "suggestions" as to how to improve my, ah, humble abode. I just use one of her favorite phrases right back at her: "I'm doing the best I can with what I have!"

  4. My dad calls that particular clean "German clean," because his German mother would start scrubbing things and would just keep on scrubbing until the paint got scrubbed off and you were down to bare wood.

    I find myself doing that sometimes. The underside of our toilet seat has unpainted spots as a result.

  5. I don't really follow it, but I "liked" this page on facebook called the fly lady. She has a 12 step program for people like us who have an overwhelming ammount of cleaning to do. and she's totally not snobby about it eiter. She calles her followers "fly babies" and tells us how much she loves us. Maybe she could help you. Maybe we could all follow her and blog about our progress. I can totally relate to you.

  6. Oh my god.... I am joining the 12 step program... for my Van of doom!! Even when it's clean, my husband refuses to ever take it to work cause if he had to drive his co-workers, he would fear for their saftey....(I didn't think it was nearly that bad!!) But I can relate 100 % to this... my mom comes in and I clean and scrub, and still get the "look", like didn't you clean up for me?!? LOL.. thanks for making me feel not alone!! <3

  7. I love your blog for the funniest little lines that you probably think nothing of as you write them. Today's gem for me?

    "I don't even shoot for clean anymore. I shoot for not embarrassing."


  8. When my husband and I had left for our honeymoon, my MIL decided to check out our house while I WAS NOT THERE (thanks brother in law). My hubby had just had his bachelor party there. When I got home pictures were rearranged on the wall and stuff on my shelves too. I can only imagine the "sniff" What a way to start off a touchy relationship to begin with. When I was 8 months pregnant at a different house she was traveling through are area and decided to drop in (she gave a warning call). So at 8 months prego I was busting my butt to get the house clean. My hubby walked her through the house and all she could say was "your house stinks like dogs." Nice huh? NO how are you feeling, sorry to drop in unexpected??? So now once a year at Christmas time I go through the house like a madwoman with my B on cleaning frantically before she comes to visit, but she is one who would polish light fixtures and clean under the exhuast vent. When I first went to visit her I was snooping through things and found post it notes in the dresser drawers reminging her that she needed to mend the bed sheets (she irons her sheets and told me I needed to do the same). One more thing, when my second daughter Paige was born I had to have my gallblader out at 5 weeks. My MIL came to take care of me. I had begged my Mom to come, but she couldn't. Anyway I totally missed the toilet when I was throwing up and my MIL cleaned it up (bless her heart), but when she was done she told me I needed to take a toothbrush to my baseboards because they were dusty. HHHMMM, I just had a baby and was huge for the 5 months before. Do you think I could bend over and clean them or even wanted too?

  9. You don't have to post this but it was sort of helpful when I was at my lowest. www.flylady.com :D

  10. Been there. Done that. My Mom would clean(and freak out on us) our always VERY clean house for days before Grandma came. We all helped and worked really hard... On our clean house- Always cleanest of anyone I knew and That with four kids! And you know what we did for fun when Grandma came? Wash the baseboards. One time, my Mom cried most of Christmas bc she griped at my Mom for the house being a wreck. It's called wrapping paper. 5 mins after opening. Mom cried every time she came. I belong to "Flylady" as well. She teaches you to do things 15 mins at a time and gets you into helpful routines and tells you nice things like- You're not behind, just start where you are! And- it didn't get like this in one day, it's not going to get spotless in one day. The point is to do a little at a time and not get overwhelmed by the SOUL SUCKING FUTILITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I used to have a clean house. Now I have a husband and just one two year old. And no matter what i do, I can't keep up with them and their mess! LOL The kitchen floor *shiver* But with flylady, I kid you not, it's getting better. If nothing else, you will have some WONDERFUL blogs to post on it and the obsession with having a shiny sink. LOL

  11. Oh... Also, I finally shamed myself into cleaning out the car last week. Enough petrified fries the entire line of the Cowboys. Along with various disgusting goos couldn't figure out. Enough toys for a daycare classroom. Two missing cups. Etc, etc. The worst things?? A bottle- my son is 2 1/2. And a chew can from my bro prob three years ago.

  12. LMAO-I totally sympathize with you Lydia! Tho, I only have one IHP-for the most part, he is a h e double hockey sticks cleaner than I am-pretty bad when you think that he is just about 8 and I am 38. Anyway, I'm trailing off subject here.
    I am MUCH like Aunt Mary when I go to visit someone else's home. I don't judge, I pitch in. If a counter needs cleaning, I do it. Cars are a completely different story-I'm lucky to keep my little red tampon clean!
    Keep bringin the laughs ladies!!!!
    Lauri Jo

  13. I so hope you are not exaggerating. My place is HORRIBLE. I moved in 2 months ago and we have barely unpacked. And my car? I just cleaned out a ton of garbage since my mother is coming in a few days and there was no place for someone else to sit!! (I also had a really really horrible smell in there in June and finally found an old Arby's bag under one seat. It was terrible.)
    Also, I imagine Thumbelina will one day blog (or whatever they call it then) about how her mom was a mess and she has fond memories of Aunt Mary teaching her to wipe down walls. ;)


    And this is written in lower-case so that you'll know that I was actually yelling the rest of this comment, not just a moron who can't figure out caps lock.

    Also, maybe you suspect that my minivan is dirty and I'm a wee bit bitter about that.

  15. My mother starts to clean every time she walks into my house..A few yrs ago we lived in Az and mom in Va she would take a greyhound bus out to visit us (afraid of flying) and even after being on a bus for 4 days she would come in and start cleaning right away...I am not a neat freak i could careless what someone thinks of my home."dont like it dont come over" well except mom cause it is really nice to have it cleaned once in a while..o and lets not forget my car honda civic 4 door she cleans that to and needs the dumpter for all the trash and also pulls about 3 loads of laundry from the trunk that needs to be washed..thats my life i love it wouldnt have it any other way

  16. Lydia I totally LOVE you. Thanks for keepin' it real. The only reason why my house is not a pit is because my hubs is an OCD clean-freak. He totally gives me the Righteous Sniff from time to time. And then is promptly shown to the couch.

  17. My 40th birthday is in a few months - the ONE thing I've asked for is a cleaning crew to do the whole casa. Sad but true. Now that my MIL can no longer travel, I've given up even the 'regular clean' and stick with the Dyson and some Windex.

  18. My mother is always on my about my house.... Let me start off by saying my three girls are home all.the.time. We homeschool... so it's not like I have 6 hours during the day to get laundry done or have some peace and quiet. For some unknown reason, my mother seems to think that the girls need to have a spotless PLAYROOM 24/7/365. Um.. it's a playroom, hence they play in there (and oh yeah... they are home all day!!!). My house is (not often) dirty... just cluttered. Laundry gets moved to the love seat when it comes out of the dryer... and sometimes it stays there for a day, or two.

    I too strive for "not embarassing".... in fact, we are being interviewed tomorrow morning (at 8:30) by a local t.v. station because it's "back to school time" and we use a virtual charter school..... so I've got my B on and Thing 1 and Thing 2 are working on the playroom as we speak.

  19. Love this.. am stealing "I don't even strive for clean anymore, I strive for not embarrassing." Also love Anonymous' comment that "since my MIL doesn't travel anymore"...lol!Mine doesn't either and it's a huge relief!

    Thanks for this post!

  20. I'm working on rejecting the idea that cleanliness is my responsibility. I am generally not the one creating messes (my husband is the worst offender and my son is next), and I have less time to clean than my husband does given that we both work full time and I accept more parenting responsibility. The more I repeat it, the more I believe it, and the more he believes it.

  21. My husband gave my car the righteous sniff the other day. Almost didn't let him ride in it. That being said, I am getting it washed today for the first day of Kindergarten tomorrow. Can't have any sniffing going on with the new peeps.

  22. This is great! Now I don't feel as if I am the only mom with a dirty van. *phew*

  23. Here's MY take on the van: I love, love, love my van. She is beautiful. Fully beautiful and completely willing to haul everyone and their Uncle's roadrunner to wherever I want to go. I love her so much that typically, she stays cleaner than my house-- you see, should my life fall apart, I can live IN my van. In fact, some days I consider spending a couple hours in her-- because she IS so clean. Heaven knows my house isn't. See, the secret is this-- I get her cleaned once a month by a "professional"-- by professional I mean a sweaty teenager at a car wash place who took the job so they could steal change and get a dark tan. Anyway, you have to CLEAN OUT the van in order to do this, so it NEVER gets too bad. Then, once every 6 months or so, you just have them steam clean the carpets. TAA DAA!

  24. Children's vans are made to be dirty. What's the point otherwise? After looking at my digusting-beyond-belief-and-proud-of-it Mazda van my parents bought me a brand new Honda Odyssey in March along with the instructions "Clean and Vacuum it once a week!"

    5 months later.....I've cleaned it twice.

  25. I hate to admit I'm a bit on the OCD side, so the house isn't that bad. My car however, is getting grosser by the second. Two boys 3 and under, and we just got home from a road trip, I am currently recovering from surgery, so I suspect by the time I get to it I'll find all kinds of moldy things. My mom is kind of like Aunt Mary, she pitches in, doesn't judge, and thank goodness can laugh about it all too. Love you ladies....

  26. Crunchy carpet... I thought I was the only one! My name is Tiffany and I have crunchy carpet.

  27. Oh, and also, aside from my ocd tendencies, the carpet in the family room is sssssssssssooooooooooooooooo bad, we don't even try anymore. At this point in time we figure it might turn into a camo pattern if we keep letting it go. Also, the hubs figures if there was a sudden famine, we could live off the carpet for a month. That is so gross I really can't contemplate it fully, but there, my friends, is my dirty secret.

  28. I'm just happy to know other people's vans look like mine. The smell is pretty bad, too. The carpet is pretty, though. Like a rainbow!

  29. Late to the game on this post (came from today's link about the sniff). My MIL is so bad that she also irons the sheets and table cloths, and was giving me shit about not ironing the BABY's clothes. Yes, she believed the baby's clothes should be hung to dry and then ironed. Kill me. She also will not let anyone put a suitcase or a bag on her floors. Because, duh, the bag or suitcase may have touched the ground outside or the floor of an airport. It has to stay in the garage or she sets up an elaborate set of towels that the offending bag MUST stay on at all times. Keep up the great work!!!

  30. My MIL is like your Aunt Mary... Love her to pieces!

  31. Once, when we were leaving for an extended trip, I was frantically trying to pack for myself and our 3 kids because, you know, my husband has enough to do just packing his own bag. Whatevs. I had done at least 43 loads of laundry just to have something to pack and it was EVERYWHERE in my house in varying stages of put-awayness. Lord knows I didn't have time to clean up before we left, but who cares because no one was going to be there while we were gone, right? Well, apparently a few days after we left our neighbor's truck was broken into. Then the next night this same neighbor noticed what he thought was something fishy at our house (a different light was on than the night before or something) and called the police. Here's where it gets awesomer. He let them in my house and when they walked into my living room they thought someone had broken in and tossed the joint! My neighbor informed them that, no, sadly our house looks like that all the time. They locked up and left. True story.

  32. Nobody gives my car the righteous sniff, because I don't let anybody in it except the Danish (who does 99% of the damage) and his friend little friend who gets a ride to hockey with us once a week. I've caught his mother eyeing it suspiciously on several occasions, especially when dozens of empty juice boxes, a handful of granola bar wrappers, and yellow crumbs that could either be goldfish or cheezits and maybe a little of both come tumbling out onto her driveway, but I suspect that she lets it go, because I also feed her little angel once a week and that bish knows beggers can't be choosers.
    Also, it means that I NEVER have to use my gas on the weekends because Moon Bear has fairly new and very nice truck that he is meticulous about and therefore would not be caught dead in my tuberculosis trap. Anytime he complains about how much gas he has used this weekend I very nicely offer to drive and that's the end of that. :)




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