Saturday, August 20, 2011

Maniac Cleaning Day

Dear friends,

I was cleaning our living room like a maniac this morning.  Trust me when I say that it was not a good thing to get in my way.  It started out rather innocently.  I was just trying to tidy up our adjacent computer room.  Then I started dusting and vacuuming, and the more dirt and clutter I saw, the more motivated to eliminate it I became. And the rest is history.  

I've often joked with my husband (who probably would have been better off marrying a Miss Susie Homemaker since he is more of a neatnick) that since I probably have ADD, I may "forget" to clean house sometimes, but once I get started, watch out!   The hyper-focus mode kicks in.  Don't stop me when I'm on a roll because I can get a lot done if I keep moving!

I sorted out DVD's, CD's and CD-ROM's, then stacked up stray books to put away later.  I dusted the furniture (amazing how much of it collects in the nooks and crannies!) and poked everything out from under an antique cabinet with my long wooden back scratcher.  My eight year old son helped me by dusting the piano. I remember dusting the same piano when I was his age, which made me feel nostalgic.  Ever the curious one, he even opened up the piano and dusted inside. Then I pulled the couches away from the walls so I could vacuum behind them, and found an overdue library book in the process.  Yay for me!   

Not content to remove the surface debris, I decided to shampoo the carpets. Unfortunately, I broke the carpet cleaning machine while trying to adjust it.  Now it can only suck up dirty water but not inject the clean soapy water into the carpet.  Thad offered to rent a carpet cleaning machine on Monday, but I was so desperate to get it done right away that the three younger kids and I just sprinkled and even poured water with cleaning solution mixed in onto the carpet.  While we spent forever getting it all sucked up again, it was worth it to see all the murky water that came back out of it and to see halfway clean floors. I'm just waiting for the carpets to air dry a little more before I put back all of the stuff I moved.  The boys were trying to convince me to rearrange the furniture permanently, but I'm pretty sure our current layout is what we need.  I still need to clean the stains off the couch cushions and put away (or throw away) the rest of the little junk that I threw into a bin on the end table.

Next time, I'll attack the computer room again.  Yes, attack is the word.  That is definitely the militant mode I was in today.  No Miss Susie Homemaker here.  More like Sergeant Clean-It-Up-or-Else, which is a drastic change from my usual Mystic Mommy Just-Let-It-Go-for-Now persona.  At this moment in my chaotic life, mess is something I can control at least for a few hours, and that feels good right now.  Besides, we just need to get rid of a lot of junk that is cluttering up our days.  It would be nice to get to sit on the couch once in a while without having to shove over a pile of school papers or unmatched socks.   Now if I can just convince the kids that the living room is not the place to bring food and drinks, or wear their shoes, or do their art projects, or scatter their toys, or leave their pencils wedged in between the couch cushions...  Or maybe I should just hold my breath another 15 years until they all move out?  

There has to be a balance somewhere.   Life is too short to keep a white-glove-clean standard with nine kids still living at home.  They will all be gone soon enough, and then I'll miss the mess.  My second daughter is leaving our little nest to get married in just eight weeks and I'll sure miss her!  At the moment, I'm helping my 12 year old son with his math homework and chatting with him about this-and-that as I type this blog post, just as I did when I was cleaning this morning.  Yeah, multi-tasking and all.  But blink, and he'll be gone too!

How do you all keep a clean house and still have time to enjoy life with your family?  Care to enlighten me?

What are your favorite organizing web sites?  Here are two to get started: 
I thought about putting this post on one of my other blogs,, but I realized that cleaning is not just a Mom Thing.  Besides, I just posted on that blog yesterday (see Friday Favorites #12: Back to School -- Overwhelmed?) and haven't put anything new on this one in quite a while!

If you like this post, you might want to read Let Our Ordered Lives Confess the Beauty of Thy Peace...? on

Virginia Knowles

P.S. (Three days later)  I guess we didn't get as much water out of the carpet as I thought.  It was pretty stinky by the next day!   My husband managed to neutralize the odor somewhat by yesterday, but I think he's still going to have to rent a machine and redo the cleaning, along with the rest of the house which still needs it!  Oh well!  I guess I was just being too stubborn for my own good!  :-)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Leu Gardens and a Busy Birthday for Melody

Dear friends,

My littlest daughter Melody turned six years old today.  It's hard to believe that my youngest is that old, especially since I had babies just about every other year for 18 years. 

Usually, I buy several smaller gifts for them at the dollar store or on clearance, and let them pick out a larger gift.  Then they also have birthday money from relatives to spend later.  

We were on our way to Leu Gardens yesterday (free admission the first Monday of each month) and stopped at Walgreens for snacks.  She's been wanting binoculars for a while and saw this pair for $10, which her brother Micah said were of good quality for the price.  So we bought them just in time to use at Leu Gardens.  Here she is, hot and sweaty, waiting for our tour of the historic Leu House.

After I took the one of her, she took this one of me.  
I wish I could show you all the pictures I took at the gardens, instead of just several.  Maybe later.  Or I will just let Micah upload his, which he took with the good digital camera, onto his own nature blog. All of these were taken with an iPod camera.

We especially love the rose garden. 

The one advantage of my iPod camera is that it is really fast.  If a butterfly was anywhere in the vicinity, I could just aim in the general direction and start clicking as fast as I could, hoping to catch something.  And I did!  A pair flying by, and another landing in a planter.

We always visit this dude near the butterfly garden.  He's not going anywhere since he's a sculpture.  I love to pay attention to details, in this case, his overalls.  You can get a new perspective by looking closer, or from a different angle...

Another example?  Same plant, farther away and closer in.

This plant, from one side of the leaves and then the other. Brighter purple!  And I didn't notice until I edited the picture later that my son was crouching down right behind the plant!

It was so hot outside we were glad to escape to the air conditioning of the historic Leu House.  I love antiques -- so cozy and quaint.

Although I'm not sure I'd want a basket made out of an armadillo...

When we left the gardens, we ate our picnic lunch.  I suggested eating on the grass, but again, we were so hot that the air conditioning of the van was just too tempting.  I was so tired when we got home, but still had some errands to run at night, like going grocery stopping.  In the same shopping plaza, I stopped at the Brightlight used bookstore to sell books we didn't need anymore, and found a Winnie the Pooh bedtime story book to buy on my store credit for Melody. 

As if yesterday wasn't busy enough, today was even busier.  First, a birthday breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, waffles and sausage (all bought in the frozen aisle at Aldi last night).  Then we had home school evaluations for all five of the younger kids for the rest of the morning.  My friend Cheryl and her husband Mike, a certified teacher, do these at their house.  Then, off to pick up an order of my Learner's Journal lesson planners at the printer, so I can get them shipped out to customers tomorrow.  Then a quick birthday lunch before going to a planning meeting for the Providence Home Educators co-op which starts its seventh year in just two weeks.  I stopped briefly on the way home at a fancy consignment store to look for a mother of the bride dress to wear to Julia's wedding in October, then took a quick peek (OK, more like 15 minutes) into the antique store next to that.  I love to see pretty things, even if I can't afford them!  :-)  (Besides the fact that we were already fortunate enough to inherit enough antique furniture and linens to keep me happy for a lifetime.)

It's a good thing that Melody chose something simple -- chicken nuggets and mac & cheese for her birthday dinner, because I didn't have much time in the evening.   Naomi had already made the brownies for our volcano cake.  That's basically a mound of cut up brownies covered with cherry pie filling (for lava), whipped cream (for smoke, but this time the whipped cream was too runny), and chocolate chips (for debris).  I invented volcano cake one year when we were learning about Mt. Vesuvius in our unit study on Ancient Rome.  Anything to be educational...  It is yummy.

If you want to see more about volcano cake, read my older post here: Volcano Cake Plus Home Management.   At left, you can see a more volcano looking version of it from that post.  Note to self: Don't nuke the whipped cream too long in the microwave!

Singing happy birthday and blowing out candles, of course.  My iPod camera doesn't do light sources well, so the six little candles really do look like a volcano spewing flames!

Naomi serves it...

My grandson Jacob plays with paper plates while sitting on the dining room table.  He makes us all laugh!

 Jacob's got a new brother or sister coming early next year!

Will he or she look like baby Melody did six years ago?


Happy birthday, Mel'y!  We love you!

You can see my blog post from Melody's 3rd birthday here: 

Melody, My Bud of Joy.

Virginia Knowles

fofVisit Ann Kroeker's 
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