No Sugar Added: 'Twas the night before school …

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… And all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for my 11-year-old, who had decided it was time to clean his room.

The last day of my children’s previous school year was June 16. I do not have an advanced degree in mathematics, but by my calculations, this meant that they had 75 days of summer vacation in which to clean their rooms, sift through the remainders of the past school year that still loomed in their backpacks, and find their matching socks.

So why is it that last night, at 10:52 p.m., Charles decided, of his own free will, that it was finally time to organize the nuclear disaster area that is also known as “his bedroom?”

If you have been here in Maine for the past few days, and not vacationing in the Swiss Alps (which is where I myself would like to be, sitting atop a glacier, eating a nice hunk of cheese with some crunchy bread), you know that the heat has been stifling. Last night, I went to the beach for a walk to cool down around 6 p.m., and it was still an unacceptably hot temperature. Stifling heat is not the reason I moved to Maine. I moved to Maine to be cool. In a practical way, not in a Madison Avenue way. Hot weather makes me cranky. I only tell you this so you can fully appreciate this mind-boggling tale.

I had been urging Charles to clean his room since the day school ended last June.

Perhaps if Charles ever slept in his own room, he would take this project more seriously.

This is, admittedly, partially my fault. But I only have so much energy and only so much free time to decide how best to use it, so the whole room-cleaning thing just falls by the wayside.

I agree with the “choose your battles” method of parenting. I would rather engage in warfare over more important topics, like drinking, drug use, teenage pregnancy and not leaving half-eaten bowls of cereal in the living room. Room cleaning is at the bottom of my list. I have a life to live, too, and I did not sign up for an 18-year tour of duty as a nagging, cranky, frustrated single mommy. Yet, at some moments, that is what I turn into.

Back to the cleaning incident.

So, it’s been hot here in Maine. And it was the day before school was swinging back into session, and I had allowed Ophelia, Harold and Charles to hang out at the beach with their friends to enjoy their final afternoon of freedom. This was probably an error, since we then found ourselves grocery shopping for school luncheon supplies at 7:30 p.m, buying up the last of the available notebooks at CVS at 8:15, and were finally back home, having dinner at 8:40.

I then allowed them to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as a final end-of-summer hurrah.

They had been saving it for this special occasion. As I sat in our non-air-conditioned living room, watching the beginning of the movie with them, I realized that perhaps Matthew Broderick was a bit too perfect a role model for Charles, but I think the seeds are already planted.

I was exhausted, and moved upstairs to my bedroom, where I proceeded to lay with a fan blowing hot air over my body, and a cold washcloth draped over my forehead, happily listening to my children laughing downstairs at Ferris Bueller’s brilliant attempts to outsmart the school administration.

The next thing I knew, I awakened to quite a commotion coming from Charles’ room, and then Charles himself was standing beside my bed, with a pair of bongo drums in hand. Pride swelled from his every pore as he spoke of two Hefty bags, filled with “stuff” he wanted to get rid of.

It was then that I realized he had finally gotten the self-motivation necessary to do what I had been asking him to do for 75 days: clean his room.

A whole eight hours and 27 minutes before the school bus was due to arrive.

That’s my boy.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at, see her art at Silver Crayon Studios in Portland or contact her at