Sunday, January 30, 2011

How Do I Keep It Clean?

My Dear Friends,

I know you are sick of hearing about my house.  I am sick of talking/writing/hearing about my house, too.  Just one more thing.

It's not that I don't know how to clean.  When I am done with them, my floors are spotless, my mirrors have no streaks, and the beds have no wrinkles.  I am not a half-way sweeper or a haphazard laundry maid.  I am careful with my cleaning.  My problems is that I don't know how to keep it clean.

How do you do it?  How does it not matter when I drop in, no matter how new that baby is or how sick you've been or that your children have been home all day, your house is clean?  I feel like I am cleaning all day, but, obviously, I can't be.  Or maybe I am, but I'm doing it wrong.  How do you work meal time so that your kitchen is clean even while you are eating the dinner you just prepared in it?  What is it that goes on in your laundry room that keeps all socks united and the floor bare?  How do you do it all and maintain a relationship with your children?

Or do you lock your children in a padded cell?  I've considered it as possibly the only plausible solution to keeping things where I put them.

Timing is getting desperate.  My house goes on the market in hours and I know I'll need to have it ready for the caller who says, "We are in your driveway.  Can we view your house?"

Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi.  You're my only hope.

The MotherShip

PS  Don't suggest Fly Lady.  I can't stand wearing shoes.  Plus, gross name.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm Done Griping

Thank you to all of you for your words of sympathy, encouragement and you-aren't-alone.  It makes a big difference.

I felt better after venting my frustrations about the housing market.  After the realtor left, I didn't want to do one more thing to this house.  Even though I had most things done before his visit, there were still a couple of rooms I hadn't deep cleaned.  I took two days off for my Pity Party, but got back to it today.  We have a completely full dumpster in front of my house that will be emptied and filled again tomorrow.  Even though I am not making any money on my investment, I still have pride in my home and in the work we did here.  I want any viewers and potential buyers to be able to see that the renovations were done with heart.  I won't be displaying my tantrum by cutting corners.

Here are a few more pictures of the place.  Let me just say at the get-go that I wish I had a wider angle lens.  I don't.
The Girls' Room

The Boy's Room

The Family Room

The Other Side of the Family Room.

The Parent's Room
Also known as The Bavarian Retreat.
Should have been known as the birth place of our fifth child--but I won't go into that.

The Parent's Closet 
(with The Four Seasons painted by my mother.  I do not know why winter is upside down.)

And finally, though it should have been first,
 The Front Porch.  

And now you have seen my whole stinkin' house.  Thank you for watching.  Please come buy it.  Offer me WAY more than we are asking.  I promise to accept any such offer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Not What I Hoped

We had our realtor visit.

I knew things were bad, but I didn't realize just how bad.  There is a glut of foreclosures on the market which is driving house prices into the gutter.  Add to that the fact that no one is buying (only one-third of the average number of houses sold in our town last year) and you have a bad situation for us lots of people.  I won't even go into the fact that many of the financial problems that have caused people to foreclose are due to irresponsible and greedy people who are dipping in to my pocket yet again--this time in the form of stolen equity.

All told, we will make no money on our property.  After you include all of the work we have done on the place, and not including my labor, the increase in value pretty much just covers expenses.

I am so disappointed.  I know I should look at the bright side of the situation.  We had a lovely home in which to live, we saved at least $30,000 in monthly rent (had we rented), I learned valuable skills, and we made something beautiful out of something rough and tumble.


But, I worked hard, dangit!  For five years, through one pregnancy and two newborns, with five children and one mostly-gone husband.  I have painted every single inch of this house.  We've changed every light fixture, sanded, tiled or carpeted every floor.  We have replaced all of the faucets and sinks, taken down some walls and put up others.  And that's just inside.  Outside, we have repaired garage shelving, scraped paint, and patched the foundation.  We have shoveled dirt, built a fence and planted grass, trees and flowers.  All the while, I reassured myself that I would be paid for my labor when we sold the house.

And now I'm getting jilted by my employer.

I know that every homeowner has to expect to do upkeep as a part of the bargain.  I know that I should be thankful that we don't have to take a loss on the house.  And I am.

But I'm also really ticked.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Keeping Up With the Big Kids

Despite the several inches of new snow, my oldest three pods are sleeping outside tonight.  They are all bundled up, have good bags, are squeezed into a small tent and are fifteen feet from the house.  They will be fine.

But, as they were preparing, this showed up:

"Mama?  Can I sweep outside, too?  I'm all weady!"

I told her, "No."  You can join her in voting me the Meanest Mom Ever, if you want.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Fasting Menu

Do you really want this?  Maybe it will be helpful to someone to see the epiphany I had during my recent fast.  Here is my list (with input from my also-fasting husband).

Main Course

  1. French Dip Sandwiches
  2. Slow-cooker Greek Chicken
  3. Swedish Meatballs
  4. Cheesy Enchiladas
  5. Green Chili Linguine
  6. Swiss Steak
  7. Tex-Mex Fiesta Bake
  8. Black Bean Soup
  9. Crispy Tilapia
  10. Sausage and Rice Casserole
  11. Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
  12. Tuna Salad 
  13. Cheese Soup
  14. Stir Fry
  15. Fried Rice
  16. Chicken Pot Pie
  17. Italian Tomato Sandwich
  18. Chicken Cacciatore
  19. Ham and Pickle Braid
  20. Beef Stroganoff
  21. Chicken Lettuce Wraps
  22. Parmesan Chicken Wings
  1. Glazed Carrots
  2. Bran Muffins
  3. Orange/Cranberry Muffins
  4. Orange Bow Knot Rolls
  5. Zoom
  6. Cream of Wheat
  7. Oatmeal
  8. Blueberry Pancakes
  9. Dutch Baby (German Pancake)
  10. Waffles
  11. Eggs and Bacon
  12. McMuffins
  13. Jello
  14. Fruit Salad
  15. Funeral Potatoes
  16. Potato Skins
  17. Banana Nut Bread
  18. Garlic Cheese Biscuits
  19. Carmel Pull-aparts
  1. Chocolate Chip Cookies
  2. Peanut Butter Bars
  3. Sandies
  4. Molasses Cookies
  5. Dump Cake
  6. Ten Cup Cookies
  7. Apple Pie
  8. Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate Pudding
  9. Tapioca Pudding
  10. Fruit Pizza
  11. Eclairs
  12. Chewy Brownies
So, there you go. You now know what my family will be eating for the next few weeks.  You can see that I have a serious sweet tooth (Dessert every other night?  Yes!).  You will also notice that I rely too much on meat.  I am working on that.  While we don't drink green smoothies, there are a lot more fruits and vegetables in our diet than to which this list alludes.  (If you are looking for health food, go to Pioneer Woman.)  I didn't write some of those down because there are a lot of plain sides like a simple green salad, steamed broccoli or a jar of home-canned peaches.  As you know, I am a from scratch cook so if you would like recipes to any of these, let me know.  I'll be happy to send them out.  Probably, though, this will just get you thinking.

The End.


Just kidding.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Perfect Time to Plan Meals

I can remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table with a partial list sitting in front of her.  Her forehead would be on her fist and her brow would be tightly knitted.  "What do you guys want for dinner?" she would holler through the house.  We would blurt out our perennial favorites, "Lasagna, Tacos, NOT LENTILS!!" until she had at least a couple of more meal ideas written down on her bi-weekly menu.  It was an excruciating task for a woman who didn't really enjoy being in the kitchen (much less coming up with things to prepare once in the room).

Unlike my mother, I don't really mind the task of meal planning.  I do sometimes get stumped or find us rotating the same fourteen day menu for weeks at a time.  So boring--and I hate boring.

I fasted today for religious reasons.  I ate dinner last night, but didn't eat again until 5 o'clock this evening.  Now, I unintentionally go without food every so often.  (I am the MotherShip to five pods and they can be very demanding.  Also, sometimes I get busy with my projects and I forget to eat.)

But, days when I have to fast?

Well, there was this old seminary video about fasting where everything turned into food.  The clock, I remember, was a pizza.  That's kind of me.  I have improved over the years and thought I was much better at fasting (ie, my focus was not on the pizza clock), until today.

Even though I was fasting about something really important, today, I began thinking about food I loved.

Today, I remembered the penny pitchers adage that you should never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.

Today, I figured writing a list wasn't the same as grocery shopping.  It wouldn't be impulse buying, then.

Today I thought, Fasting is the perfect time to make up my grocery list.  

Today, during church services, I wrote down twenty-one meals, thirteen specialized side dishes, ten breakfasts, and ten desserts that required not-on-hand ingredients.

I think I have had a no-more-monotony meal planning break through.

You can totally steal my idea.  I wouldn't feel like such a sinner if you did it too.

Your Sister in Crime

(If you want to know more about the religious aspects of fasting, click here.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Living Room and Dining Room

(Yes, I know there are only four children in that picture.  I've ordered the new one . . .  Also, the pears are not real.  Fruit doesn't usually make it all the way out of the grocery bag before my pods devour it.)

One my favorite things about my house is this room.  While my house is little, they put all the space in the right places.  I would rather have tiny bedrooms than cramped living areas.  This particular room serves as a dining room, sitting room, computer room, ballet floor, library, wrestling arena, discotheque, school room and sometimes theater.  It is good that it is the largest room in the house.

Look at the reflection of the books off my gleaming floor!  I am not too proud to say that I have bruises on my knees from scrubbing, rinsing, and waxing this floor.  But, look how pretty.  It was worth it!

This room wasn't as bad as some of the others.  Changes were still needed, but not so desperately.  The lighting was the first necessity.  Before, the light over the kitchen table was a barely connected bedroom light.

Like this:

It was ugly, but more than that, it was ineffective.  As the only permanent lighting, it did a poor job of illuminating the table below.  So, we changed it to this wrought iron thingy.  

We put the dusty green on the walls which immediately warmed the room.  That table used to be a door from a church my husband and I both attended when we were young.  When they remodeled the building, we got the door.  It is a solid oak door and is SUPER heavy.

Now, turn around and see the other half of the room.  I really wish we didn't have to have the computer in here, but it is the safest place in the house.  There is always someone in here so everyone can see everything that is on the screen and any given time.  Even with our filters, stuff gets through--if you know what I mean.  Also, I was married in 1997, which you can tell by the first artwork I chose as a new housekeeper.  I know the angel needs to go, but it has been on my walls for so long . . .

 Another view of the cleanness.

So, there it is.  One more room ready to view.  Now, on to the front porch . . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One Step Closer; Kitchen

The month of January has been dedicated to prepping the house for sale.  For many of you, this wouldn't be much of a problem, but for a generally haphazard gal like myself, it is a big undertaking.  Here is my kitchen and adjoining mudroom.

What you can't see is inside the cabinets, under the sink and behind the fridge.  All corners and hidden places, as well as the more visible ones, are clean!!

Since a house, like a garden or a child, is never done, there are still a few things that can be done to improve these spaces.  I have hesitated to show pictures of my rooms because I know what isn't just right.  I'm sure most of you will spot those things, too, but I have run out of time.

But, it snowed today.  Soon this room is destined to look like this:

At least I have pictures to prove that it was clean.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bathroom Unveiling

I know I have a problem with "before" pictures.  I keep intending to take them, but I get so excited to start my projects that I forget.  Here is a picture of my baby with the dreadful roofing sheet metal shower stall behind her.  You can see the hard water minerals that have barnaclized on the the bolt heads and the improvised bar.  What you can't see is the bad caulk, the torn metal around the faucets where repairs needed to be made without access being left, the shower plumbing left outside of the metal and the total lack of shelving for the shampoo bottle or a bar of soap.

This is what was behind the metal.  We had to remove several layers from here.

And now . . .

Tile, shelving (some is hidden by the curtain), clean and tight caulk, new plumbing, repaired walls and new paint.

And clean.

Now I must catch up on all of my other tasks.  A "day job" has never looked so easy.  (:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nearly Done

The thing about old houses is, you never know what the project will entail.  When we tore down the wall of the shower, I expected to find a thoroughly rotten wall.  Instead, though there were rotten layers, the wall was dry as a bone (not a bone still in your body, that would be quite wet, no, the animal kind that has been bleaching in the field for a couple of years).  Instead, the plumbing gave us trouble.

After the plumbing was all repaired, I thought we had had our surprise problem.  Not so.

The rest of the problems were not the fault of the old bones (hmm, bones again . . .) of my beautiful bungalow.  They were MY fault.  First, in the middle of a big project which held the only shower in the house hostage, I got a terrible stomach flu.  I was out for two days.  (Lest you think we were all living mimics of Pig Pen, the bath was accessible . . . ish.)

Second, I had a serious grout problem.  I won't go into the whole thing, but I'll just let you know that I made a stupid mistake then punished myself (subconsciously) into solving the problem the hardest way possible.  After ninety minutes, my husband, armed with the internet, intervened and handed me a much easier solution.  It was still a hard process, but, if the grout had animation capabilities, it would have forgiven me.

Third, I planned on painting the whole bathroom (including the parts of the repaired walls that weren't behind the tile) the existing color.  I knew I had half of a gallon in the basement which would have been enough.  Upon opening the can, I realized that the last time the can was used, presumably by me, the lid was not secured tightly. The top two inches of the paint was solidified which rendered the whole can useless.  Instead of painting the top third of two walls and touching up the other walls, I am re-painting the whole friggen bathroom.

But, it is almost done.  My body is tired, my hands are cracked and scraped and my family needs me.  A week is what I budgeted.  With the time lost from sickness, I am officially going to go one day over.  Oh, well.

Here is a sneak peek--complete with snoozing two year old.

She is now in pajamas in her bed.  I am going to follow her lead.  I am bone tired (heh, heh, heh).

Goodnight, my dears.

The MotherShip

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Magic 8 Ball

My newly minted twelve year old was getting mostly useful gifts for his birthday.  Though he is at that age where useful gifts are wanted, he is still young enough to want to play.  When I saw the Magic 8 Ball, I knew we had found the thing.

It has turned out to be a more valuable asset than we could have hoped.  We have learned the fates of us all--which is such a relief.  I am so glad to know that my daughter will be a princess, my husband will "most likely" graduate from college, someone will do the dishes and none of my children will have an ugly spouse.  We know that I will finish the bathroom remodel and the house has a good chance of selling, though it is "hazy" whether we will ever have that boy a brother.

It has come in handy in other ways as well.  When, at 9:30 pm, the boy wanted to know whether Dad would watch a movie with him, we just referred him to the Magic 8 Ball.  "Not a chance!"  YES!  That is right!

"Does my dad like the movie Strange Brew?"  I mean, if you were looking for a litmus test, you have found it.  When the Magic 8 Ball answered, "It is certain," we all knew the thing was a ligit seer.

Then things started reeling out of control.  When I asked for the dust pan, the boy had to refer to the Magic 8 Ball before he could know whether he should get it for me.

"Did you have a good day?" check the Magic 8 Ball.

"Will you go away for a minute so Dad and I can discuss something?"  Check the Magic 8 Ball.

The answer to the question, "Am I annoying my parents?" was answered with an, "All signs point to yes."


My smart and talented husband decided he was going to invent a parent's version of the Magic 8 Ball.  The answers within would be along the lines of

  • Go to Bed
  • Not in This Lifetime
  • Just Leave Her Alone
  • Maybe Means Maybe
  • Go Back to Bed
  • I Can't Understand Whine
  • If it Doesn't Apply to You, I Wasn't Talking to You
and, of course,
  • Go Ask Your Mother
Please pardon me, I think I need to contact Procter and Gamble.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Read the Four Gospels by Easter

 As careful as I am about keeping Christ in Christmas (not to be to cliche, but it applies), I don't do as well with Easter.  Last year I tried to do an advent of sorts for Easter.  I thought I would do something with the Last Week of Christ.  Remembering the age and attention span of my children, I wanted to keep each night's devotional to just a couple of verses and found that very difficult to do with a whole week of very full days.

This year, we came up with a new goal.  We are going to read the Four Gospels by Easter.  That way, there isn't too much information all at once, but we can read all about the life of Christ.  (The last week is about the Road to Emmaus and the Ascension and actually falls the week after Easter.)

I have divided up the gospels so that we are reading approximately the same stories as recorded in the different gospels at approximately the same time.

Here is my chart (click on the chart to expand):

If you have younger readers who want to participate, but can't struggle through the actual scripture, I put down the chapters in the children's reader.  If you don't have the children's reader, you can read them online here.  The children can also watch them (kind of like a slide show) here.

None of the assignments are very long.  Ten to Twenty minutes of reading each day should be enough time for most readers.

I am excited about this new plan.  This way, we have sixteen weeks to celebrate Easter, rather than one candy-crazed morning.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Final Project

We have been busy in the first few days of the new year.  The goal is to have the house ready to put on the market by the first of February.  Normally, that would be the simple task of cleaning, organizing and staging the house.  I don't believe in being normal. . . apparently.
This house was a classic "fixer-upper" when we purchased it over five years ago.  Since we've had to eat, sleep and bathe here, we couldn't just do all the remodel at once.  Also, since we were on a student budget, we couldn't afford to do it all at once.  So, over the past five years, we have slowly worked on restoring each room in the house.

The bathroom was one of the first jobs we tackled.  The floor was particularly troublesome.  Next to the bathtub and toilet, the floor was squishy.  I was pregnant when we moved in and was taking a bath one day.  I couldn't relax because, with the extra weight of the water in the tub, I knew the floor was going to give way at any moment.  I kept picturing myself pregnant, naked and dead after a sudden and violent plunge to the basement.  

After I had the baby, I began the work of tearing up layer after layer of linoleum, press board, and other rotten flooring.  The good news was that the seven layers of flooring had protected the wooden sub-floor.  It was completely sound.  We laid a new floor, put in a new sink and improved the overall aesthetics of the bathroom.

Except the shower.

Yesterday, we tackled the shower.  The previous renters had decided roofing sheet metal was the best way to protect the wall behind it.  They forgot that it was impossible to keep clean--cleansers etched the metal and there were bolt heads every four inches--and the glue they used to caulk would not separate from the metal, but allowed water to seep between the tub and the wall.  Fantastic.

Enlisting the help of our five pods, we removed sheet metal, press board, green board, wallpaper, rotten plaster and broken lath.

A woman after my own heart, she proclaimed, "I LOVE this!  I think I want to be in construction when I grow up!"


 Eww.  Grody wallpaper.

I know, pajamas and messy hair.  We also had Arby's for dinner.  It was a work day.

No one was allowed to cop out.  Even the two year old helped peel wallpaper.

Yes, we were all barefoot.  We are all current on our shots.  Don't judge. (:

Today, I am mudding.  With any luck, the walls will begin getting tile tonight.  

I am glad to be on the final big project we will complete in this house, but it is a little sad.  I have loved improving our home and making our little corner of the world a more beautiful (and safe) place.  I will post after pictures soon.  Stay posted.

The MotherShip

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Nature of Home

My parent bought the house in 1978, when I was 18 months old.  They still live there.  

My niece's in-laws are Tongan.  They talked about how Tonga was paradise; their ocean-front town always has a breeze, they never have to water their gardens because even in the "dry season" there is enough water and the ever-blooming flowers mean that the air is always perfumed.  I lived in Hawaii for a year and though I loved it and it IS beautiful and temperate, nothing compares to home.

This is where I am from:

Yes, it was cold this week, but we had a wood fire crackling in the fireplace the whole time.  We had plenty to eat and, since our first days of driving were spent driving here, driving in the snow isn't too big of a deterrent to getting where you need to go.

Every branch on every tree was coated with a thick layer of powdered sugar.  

I didn't bring any of our snow clothes with us so we improvised a bit.

The kids had their own coats, but everything else was borrowed or improvised.  We used plastic bags and rubber bands.  They just HAD to be outside.  

Here she is on the top of the jungle gym singing Jingle Bells at the top of her lungs.  No, I don't know why we haven't had any broken bones.  (:

 This month we finish the last of the projects to prepare our house for sale.  We are anxious to get home.  If you were from this magical, fairy-touched place, wouldn't you?